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If you were hoping this was a post about police officers, you are going to be disappointed. You tuned into the wrong channel.

The subject at hand is Jesus’ statement about pigs. It’s the only time He talked about them, in fact. “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” (Matthew 7:6).1 In my experience, the Church in the West has accepted the interpretation of that statement in the same way as the culture: Do not give precious truth to people who cannot or will not hear them. You have great things to be said and heard, but the listeners are, well, individuals unworthy of your “pearls.”

That’s an arrogant way to think, wouldn’t you agree? A bit self-righteous?

This arrogance is fleshed out when one looks at this statement in context. Jesus’ “pigs statement” comes directly after these verses: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1–5).

Does Jesus change the subject after this teaching about unjust judgment, specks, and logs, about judging people unrightly and arrogantly, treating them and speaking to them as if they are sinners and you are better than they?

No. Please allow me to prove it to you.

Pause for a moment and put the existing “pearls before swine” narrative out of your head and try not to rip verse six away from the previous five verses. If we don’t, Jesus makes this statement about pigs right out of the blue, for some reason. Now, I admit that I have come across passages where Jesus does seem to say something out of the blue, and I walk away scratching my head. Nevertheless, we should ask in such cases, “Why did He say that here?” It’s a good question to ask. We should always wonder if somehow, we are missing the context. I think there is a contextual answer for this passage. Here’s the question I ask to find it: When does Jesus ever refuse to give his pearls of truth to people who are “pigs”—unclean people like Gentiles or Samaritans?

Never.

Remember when He said this astonishing thing to the adulterous Samaritan woman at the well? “The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (John 4:25–26).

Talk about a pearl of truth! He was very constrained in revealing this truth about Himself to others. Yet, here He was, telling this immoral Samaritan woman straight out that He is the Promised One.

How about the Canaanite woman—an idol worshiper—who asked Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter? He tested her, but when she revealed her faith in Him, He said, “‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly” (Matthew 15:28). Jesus gave a beautiful pearl to this suffering mother: He commended the greatness of her faith. Would you like Jesus to say this to you? How would you feel? Would you feel loved? Affirmed? But this Canaanite woman was a dog in the eyes of some and did not deserve a pearl of truth but rather condemnation.

So, what did Jesus mean when He said, “Don’t give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest them trample them underfoot and turn to attack you”?

Here’s what I think Jesus is saying in the “pigs” verse: Don’t arrogantly and self-righteously treat and speak to people like they are filthy sinners, like pigs and dogs; otherwise, they will trample your precious “pearl of truth” underfoot and then attack you. Doesn’t that make sense? How far do you think you will get if you treat people like trash and then try to preach God’s loving truth to them? Do you think they will happily accept your pearl of truth even though it may be God’s truth indeed? No. They will turn on you and possibly attack you, trampling what is precious truth—God’s precious truth—under their feet.

Let’s ask the Lord to help us treat sinners as Jesus did when we interact with them. As Peter did when he preached at Cornelius’ house (Acts 10:34-48). As Paul did when he spoke to the Athenians (Acts 17:22-31). Terrible sinners? Yep. So are you. The righteousness of God has been imputed to you by grace and great love. You did nothing whatsoever to attain this status. We should never forget this. Looking down our noses in arrogance and self-righteousness at people whom we consider worse sinners than we will never bring fruitful ministry and will instead damage the good work we are trying to do.

1All Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy giphy.com.

 

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