Pearls Before Swine

In Lent 23 by Bruce LogueLeave a Comment

 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.”

Matthew 7:6, NRSV

This text follows Jesus’ saying about judging. “Don’t judge,” Jesus says. This makes this saying seem out of place and even contradictory to Jesus’ rejection of judging. “Jesus, do you mean we are supposed to assess people, placing them into pig and non-pig categories?”

In the most common approach to this text, we are told to withhold our “pearls” from people who will not value them but will only trample on or ridicule our message. But none of us has the insight to be able to make that judgment. Using that criterion the people of Jesus’ day would have excluded the demoniac screaming out in the graveyard or the woman with five consecutive husbands and paramour, or the people at Levi’s house.

Dallas Willard writes that certain classes of people are not to be viewed as pigs or dogs. Jacque Ellul said a similar thing. “It is not for the church to separate human beings into two categories – swine and not-swine.”

The saying is actually addressed to the church – to those who would be tempted to judge and write off those who are deemed difficult, resistant, or beyond help. Too often the church uses a “one size fits all” approach to the distribution of good news, and the result of that approach has been met with rejection and even anger.

Luke reminds his readers that if you “love only those who love you in return,” there is nothing exceptional about how you treat others. Jesus said, “….love your enemies and your reward will be great. You will be children of God; because God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” Luke 6:35. Implying that people are to be treated individually with grace and respect.

This text is a good follow-up to the command to not judge. It goes a step further and teaches us to be sensitive and discerning when it comes to how we approach others. We should avoid at all costs ignoring the needs and capacity of the people whom we contact.

Then, they will not trample underfoot what we graciously and sensitively share with them.

Prayer: God of Prodigals who brings rain to the just and unjust. Teach us to be more responsive and compassionate in our relationships with everyone. May we never throw out “pearls” when they may not be appropriate or desired, instead giving with the moment calls for. Help us to be like Jesus who paused by the well, went to Levi’s house, and called down Zacchaeus. Giving to each of them what they needed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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