Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs (Matthew 7:6)

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Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

In this section of the teachings of Jesus, we are given the command not to give dogs what is holy and not to throw your pearls before pigs. This teaching sits in Matthew 7:1-6, just after the instructions not to judge without first examining ourselves, seemingly sitting on its own. Still, it is essential to understand its meaning and application.

The “pearl” in Matthew 7:6 refers to the “gospel”. Similar to the pearl referenced in Matthew 13:45-46. It is all about the kingdom of heaven, where this pearl and treasures refer to Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers. This gospel is of immeasurable value. 

Now, we must understand the meaning of dogs and pigs in the cultural setting when Jesus taught the parables. Dogs roamed the streets being savage, carrying diseases and filth. Pigs were also considered unclean animals returning to wallow in the mud. 2 Peter 2:22 says, “What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” These animals are ceremonially unclean and symbolise the people who respond to this invaluable message of the gospel with stubborn unbelief, resistance, and contempt. 

Essentially what Jesus is teaching is to withhold the gospel from certain people who are unworthy of it. We know when someone is unworthy of it because they have a hardness in the heart toward the gospel, responding viciously, violently, hatefully, and persistently, not willing to hear the truth of scripture, instead mocking it. Notice these are not people who simply reject the gospel truths but those who are persistently hateful unbelievers

One of the main points in this command is to be wise in discernment and judgment of the people you are presenting this pearl, which is the gospel. We must remember this priceless treasure and the value of this glorious message. When presenting it, we must discern the people who are its hearers and responders. Matthew 10:14 says, “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” Again, we see another example of this teaching in practice by Paul and Barnabas. Acts 13:46 says, “And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.”

In essence, we are told in Matthew 7:1-5 not to judge unworthily but to examine ourselves before we can judge someone else. It does not mean “not to judge at all”. In the very next verse in Matthew 7:6, we are commanded to have discernment and judgment when presenting the gospel message and to discern the audience to whom it is delivered. 

At the same time, it is essential to remember the context of this command in the narrative of loving your enemies. We are not to be unloving to those who reject the message of Christ and be nasty toward them, but we are to do all things in love. While evangelising, some overly zealous believers fail to discern the scoffer and hater of the gospel from the one hungry for truth. Likewise, please do not be too hasty to easily cast this label on every person as a swine or a dog just because they reject the gospel message. Use wisdom and the leading of the Holy Spirit so that you may always present the gospel in love and know when you stop sharing in certain circumstances. This decision involves discernment and judgment of the situation and people.

Finally, I encourage you to continue casting this pearl of great price to all you know so that they, too, might be partakers of this beautiful message of salvation and relationship with God. Do not be one that does not cast out this pearl at all; instead, be one who does cast wisely and by the leading of Christ. Amen!

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