The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10 KJV)
The thief( singular) in John 10:10 does not refer to a specific person (or individuals) in Jesus’s day but to leaders of God’s people who take up leadership positions God did not give them and use God’s people to serve their needs and personal goals. I will briefly review who this thief is and the characteristics Jesus used to describe them.
First, note that the thief is not the devil as we are accustomed to hearing. Though the exact identity of the thief in John 10:10 is not clearly stated by Jesus, the context teaches us Jesus was concerned about those who shepherd God’s people( that is, leaders) and not Satan or demons.
The thief is the one who enters the sheepfold through an unofficial way rather than through the door. For example, they could jump over the fence or wall to enter the sheepfold. This means these are leaders God did not ordain over His people but used either crafty (thief) or violent (robber) means to assume authority(John 10:1). Jesus is teaching us there are Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists, and other Church leaders who were not ordained by God but govern God’s people.
Contrary to the good shepherd, the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. While the shepherd cares for the sheep and seeks their welfare, thieves use the sheep to meet their needs. These needs could be money, desire for power or lordship over God’s people, or popularity.
The message about the thief in John 10:10 is profound but straightforward: there are Church leaders God did not appoint who use God’s people to meet their own needs rather than meet the needs of the people.
Who are the thieves Jesus referred to John 10:10 as it applies to us today?
Apply the Word
God uses human leaders to lead His people. He clearly teaches us a disturbing and sobering lesson here: people can manipulate their way to take up positions of authority to run Churches or ministries and use God’s people to meet their needs. If you have pastors or other leaders such as prophets ordained of God who care about the people and not themselves, be thankful and honestly pray for them. And pray for other believers, ministries, or Churches who have leaders God did not appoint that God will intervene somehow to deliver them as sheep from the teeth of these wolves.
Could you take a moment to pray, as noted above?