Dog’s, Pigs, and Pearls

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6 TNIV)

According to John Wesley, this verse simply means that we are not to talk “of the deep things of God to those whom you know to be wallowing in sin. Neither declare the great things God hath done for your soul to the profane, furious, persecuting wretches. Talk not of perfection, for instance, to the former; not of your experience to the latter.”  Granted, this is an old commentary, but his interpretation has stood the test of time and is still today the prevailing interpretation of this passage.

But as I have meditated on this passage in light of where I live and some of the people I have interacted with over the years, I am beginning to wonder if maybe there isn’t a more applicable interpretation. I am in no way saying that Mr. Wesley is wrong, just that I believe there is more to it than simply “don’t share the gospel with people who don’t wanna hear it.”  While this is sage advice, and all Christians would do well to heed it, I think there is another level to it that is much more controversial, even in light of Jesus’ own teachings in other places.

Jesus tells a story of a man who is beat up and robbed and left for dead.  All the religious people leave him there, but the pagan sinner goes above and beyond for the man and not only gets him to a doctor but pays for it too.  The lesson?  Help people in need because everyone is your neighbor.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus is speaking of the eye for an eye thing, and he is telling his listeners to, when hit, not fight back.  In that section of his message, he tells them,

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:42 TNIV)

The lesson here?  When someone needs to borrow money because they have fallen on hard times, help them out.  And don’t worry about it because God will provide for your needs.

But then, mixed in with his teachings is this little nugget of wisdom that seems to contradict all of this.

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6 TNIV)

What’s going on?  Jesus, by his words and actions, has told us over and over again to help people in need no matter who they are or what their circumstances.  And then He tells us, to paraphrase, to not give our best to the worst of people?  What is happening?

I think this is why commentators from times of old up until today have spiritualized this verse of Scripture.  The literal message seems to contradict Jesus’ own teachings.  And since no Scriptures can contradict, it is thought that a way must be found to understand a passage of Scripture so that it is not in tension with other passages.  After all, tension is just another word for contradiction.

I don’t do things that way.  I have come to believe that part of the beauty of the Bible is the fact that it is, at times, inconsistent. There is nothing wrong with that.  This does not mean that God has in some way failed us.  I think the inconsistencies are there to show us, in a broad sense, the human condition.  We are totally incapable of seeing a flawless picture of God.  And this is shown to us even in the Scriptures.  After all, even the Gospel accounts don’t tell of the crucifixion and resurrection in exactly the same way.

But I digress.  What is Jesus saying in this verse?

I think he is saying exactly what it looks like he is saying.  There are people, like pigs and dogs, who, no matter how much we give them or how much we do for them, will turn on us at the drop of the hat. There are certain people who, even if we give them the best of what we possess, will abuse us and trample us like pigs in a mud puddle.  How does Jesus tell us to deal with these people?

He tells us not to throw our pearls before them and not to sacrifice that which is sacred within us to aid them.

This idea is completely consistent with the broader message of Scripture.  God did not sacrifice His Son to pay for the sins of those who will ultimately turn Him down.  The sacrifice is only effectual for God’s chosen ones.

And lest you argue with me, this is an Old Testament idea.  When the priest made the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, he was not paying for the sins of the Gentiles, but rather only those of the Jewish people, God’s chosen people.

Jesus, in calling us to be like God, is leading us in the same direction.  This isn’t necessarily so much about sharing the Gospel as it is giving of ourselves to others.  We should not sacrifice our bodies and what is of value to us for someone who has shown themselves to be ungrateful or even unwanting of that help.

This is a hard message for us to swallow, though.  We don’t like to think that there may be times when we should turn someone down when they ask for help.  It seems to contradict Jesus’ way.  He never really did put any stipulations on who deserved our help and who didn’t…unless this verse applies in that context.

If it does, then it becomes easy for us to be able to discern who we should and shouldn’t help.

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3 thoughts on “Dog’s, Pigs, and Pearls

  1. Jean McDowell says:

    I labored over this for a few hours before I could settle on an answer for my class. I am in a retirement community and started a class for old folks. I am ninety one and love the fact that you mentioned John Wesley . I remember John and his brother, and that they traveled around on horses to teach. Thanks for the artricle. Jean

  2. Butch Johnson says:

    After somewhat evolving spiritually, I think this is referring to sharing a deeper spiritual knowledge with those who are not ready to understand it. Most Christians have blinders on when it comes to hearing deeper interpretations of the Bible.

  3. Tom Carabellese says:

    Humbly I submit, Christ might have been teaching us to manage our expectations and resources while being aware and sensitive to our company and surroundings. This in keeping with Matthew 10:17. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

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