How can you call yourself a shepherd if you only think about yourself?
That’s the question Ezekiel asked the leaders of his people. “Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves,” he said. “Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?” (Ezekiel 34:2).
When we are young, we are naturally self-centered. It’s to be expected. Our primary focus has to be on learning to become independent and on learning how to interact with other people. That implies a significant focus on self-awareness and self-improvement. But as we get older, that focus needs to shift. Our sense of purpose has to expand, and particularly when we are placed in a position of leadership, we have to learn to prioritize the needs and the growth of others over our own.
“I am the good shepherd,” said Jesus. “The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep…. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:11, 13).
Ezekiel listed some things which truly selfless shepherds would have done and which the leaders of his people had neglected:
- “The diseased have ye not strengthened,”
- “neither have ye healed that which was sick,”
- “neither have ye bound up that which was broken,”
- “neither have ye brought again that which was driven away,”
- “neither have ye sought that which was lost.”
In the end, Ezekiel said, his people were scattered, “because there is no shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:5).
Jesus felt compassion for the people in his nation, “because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36; see also Mark 6:34).
Alma felt the same about his people. He said that they “professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd” (Alma 5:37). He urged them to listen to the call of the Good Shepherd and enter His fold. (See Alma 5:38, 41, 57, 60.)
President Henry B. Eyring explained how we can be good shepherds to the people we are called to serve:
It is love that must motivate the shepherds of Israel…. We pray for the sheep, every one for whom we are responsible. When we ask, “Please tell me who needs me,” answers will come. A face or a name will come into our minds. Or we may have a chance meeting that we feel isn’t chance. In those moments, we will feel the love of the Savior for them and for us. As you watch over His sheep, your love for Him will grow. And that will increase your confidence and your courage.
Now, you may be thinking: It’s not that easy for me. I have so many people to watch over. And I have so little time. But where the Lord calls He prepares a way, His way.“Watch with Me,” General Conference, April 2001
Today, I will strive to be a good shepherd. I will pay attention to the needs of the people around me prioritize their well-being. I will have compassion on people who have no shepherd, and I will strive to follow the example of Jesus Christ, who showed us what a shepherd should be.