Monday, 03 April 2017 14:36

Probaton Scubalon

Written by  Tony Butler
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John 10:15  “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”


If you look up the Greek word for sheep you will see the word “probaton”. Sheep, especially lambs, are cute animals. We love to see paintings of sheep/lambs in the arms of the Good Shepherd Jesus and imagine ourselves as one of His little loved ones safely resting in His bosom. Surrounding Jesus in the paintings are clean adoring sheep that are being gently led to still waters and green pastures. How we love the ideal.


I am reminded of a woman that went to a lawyer’s office seeking a divorce. The lawyer asked her why she wanted a divorce, to which she replied, “I was looking for the ideal, it became an ordeal, and now I want a new deal.” So many people get married with some idealistic fantasy only to find out shortly thereafter their ideal included an ordeal with over 50% wanting a new deal.


All true believers of Jesus are called sheep in Scripture.  However, we all live in a larger reality than an idealistic picture of us in the bosom of Jesus as sheep. There is one particular natural commonality that sheep share and manifest, but I have never seen any of it in a painting with Jesus. Can you guess what it is?  It appears as a little land mine just waiting for the unsuspecting to step on. In the Greek it is called “scubalon” being translated “dung” (one of many euphemisms) thus the title of the article “Probaton Scubalon”. 


In other words, reality reveals sheep don’t live perfectly clean ideal lives. They can be messy and release smelly byproduct. Such a thing shouldn’t be strange; it is normal and natural in the life of sheep. There is no such thing as scubalon free sheep in this life.


 It is the same with God’s sheep. Jesus chose twelve men who released the scubalon of fear, jealousy, pride, anger, and unbelief; Peter even denied Jesus three times. Not one of them believed Jesus rose from the dead until Jesus appeared to them. But as their Good Shepherd He loved them to the end because they were His sheep. For three and a half years Jesus loved them through their scubalon. He died for them having paid for every bit of scubalon in their lives. All believers release scubalon byproducts of weird, pride, failure, sin, insensitivity, stupidity, fear, jealously and much more.  All these things were paid for and forgiven by the blood of Jesus (Eph. 1:7). By God’s amazing grace He has accepted us in Christ (Eph.1:6). We are His beloved, elect and precious ones by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9).


Too many believers are looking for the ideal and are drawn to ministries where there is the best of everything. Scubalon isn’t seen, talked about, or much less dealt with. They have trained professional pooper scoopers that will get rid of it so fast you never even knew it happened. The greatest of effort is taken to present a façade of idealism but seldom deal with the dung. 


Even in smaller churches, often the dung is denied. Christians are told true Christians can’t produce scubalon. Where scubalon is denied, it is hidden. Where it is hidden, then the scubalon of legalism, anger, guilt, self-righteousness and rebellion is spread. A false view of God, grace and salvation is produced, and true joy is lost.


As Christ’s sheep we are told to love one another, bear one another’s burdens, forgive one another, accept one another, be patient toward one another, go to one another when there is conflict, and speak the truth in love to one another. We all are in a time of spiritual formation through the sanctification of the Word and the Spirit. God is patiently forming Christ in us until the day comes when the ideal will be reality. In that day we will have no scubalon and dwell in His eternal pasture and quiet stream of the river of life.  In the meantime love God’s sheep and keep it real.


Tony Butler is pastor of Fountain of Grace, 881 McQueen Smith Rd S, Prattville, AL. Visit them this Sunday or check out their website,


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