Reaching Pigs Without Pearls: Matthew 7:1-6

Focus Passage: Matthew 7:1-6 (NIV)

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“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 turn and tear you to pieces.

Read Matthew 7:1-6 in context and/or in other translations on!

One of the oddest things for Jesus to teach comes right after Jesus shares a message about hypocrisy and being intentional about how we should help others. Taken by itself, it may be one of the meanest of Jesus’ teachings – but even while it may not be politically correct, the theme that is shared may surprise you.

After drawing our attention onto how we should focus on personal growth in order to truly be able to help others (this equals fixing issues in our lives before helping others do so), Jesus seems to switch topics by saying, “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 turn and tear you to pieces.” (v. 6)

I wonder if this idea confused any of those in Jesus’ audience. Is Jesus being literal here, or are dogs, pigs, and pearls metaphors for something else?

If we take the context of this passage and focus on how Jesus has just finished sharing about removing the speck from our brother’s eye, I wonder if Jesus hasn’t actually changed topics, but instead is broadening the focus of His idea to now include other non-family members. If this is the case, then dogs and pigs may symbolically mean people who are unreceptive or hostile to spiritual truth.

Continuing along with that thought, in the Old Testament culture, as well as in the first century, there were clear boundaries between the sacred and the secular – even more so than boundaries that are present between these areas today. Dogs and pigs are not clean animals (based on the Jewish dietary law), therefore they could easily represent those who have aligned themselves against spiritual truth.

If the term pearl is a metaphor as well, then perhaps it might be compared to wisdom. There is the expression “pearl of wisdom” and that may be relevant for our discussion as a way to link these ideas.

With all these metaphors in place, I wonder if Jesus is telling His followers to be cautious about sharing wisdom and spiritual truth with those who are hostile towards it. Those who do not value the things of God are not going to value or appreciate more things sent their way. If we choose to intentionally share spiritual truth with someone who will not value it, or with someone who is opposed to it, we paint a target on ourselves with nothing positive coming from the situation.

Does that mean we write off those who are opposed to Christ and Christianity? Absolutely not!

It does instead mean that we must approach these people differently. These people may be more impressed by our actions and attitudes (specifically our Christ-like love) than with our Christian clichés and our thought-challenging proverbs.

Jesus came into a world that was filled with these metaphoric dogs and pigs. Instead of preaching religious clichés like had been done up to that point, Jesus took a relational approach, and won many people over by simply loving them. Jesus’ example shares how we can reach people who are opposed to God, and it is through our love and character, not through our spiritual teachings.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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