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.”
This verse has always confused me as a Christian. I’ve often wondered what Jesus was talking about. What are the pearls Jesus is referring too and who are the pigs?
Matthew 13:45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
When reading difficult passages in scripture I find that it’s helpful to go to other places where the wording is similar. Pearls here, refer to the kingdom or salvation, which I think is an appropriate way to define what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 7:6.
Who then are the pigs? The only other verses where pigs are used are in reference to the Gadarenes demoniac(s) in Matthew 8 and the prodigal son in Luke 15. Neither, in my opinion are very helpful for determining the meaning of this word.
What I do know from scripture, is that according to the Jewish dietary laws, pigs were considered unclean. Only Gentiles ate pigs.
My conclusion is this: The pigs are unbelievers.
If both the above points are true then this is what Jesus is saying: There are some people who don’t want to hear the gospel/kingdom message and you should not spend the time seeking to tell them about it.
That may seems harsh but there’s a method to Jesus’s madness here. if we’re patient, I think we’ll find that this seemingly unreasonable statement is not so unreasonable after all.
That leads to a few other questions in my mind: Who are these unbelievers? How do we know we’re casting pearls to unbelievers? And lastly, is this applicable in every situation?
(1) Who the unbelievers are that Jesus is referring too
People who react with hostility when we tell them about Christ. Those are the kinds of unbelievers he is referring too. Jesus does not mean all non-believers here, for if that were the case, no one would ever evangelize. He’s speaking of a very specific kind of unbeliever.
Jesus’s words to the disciples in Matthew 10:14 help shed some light on those specifics.
“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.”
Jesus here is speaking of evangelism and openly acknowledges that there will be people who will not want to hear the Gospel message.
If people are unwilling to listen, He tells the disciples to move on. The question is: Who are these people?
These are people who are so bitter towards God that anything you say enrages them (Proverbs 29:11). People who will constantly fight and poke fun at you, because they hate God and what he stands for . They refuse to listen and they cannot be reasoned with (Proverbs 29:9)
If we find that the people we are around are incredibly hostile to us because of who we stand for, after having made attempts to reach them, Jesus says to turn and move on.
(2) How do we know we’re casting our pearls to swine?
It’s interesting that we see Jesus saying this and yet we see Him eating with what seems like those kinds of people in Matthew 9:10. Does this make Jesus a hypocrite?
No. These sinners that Matthew is speaking of here are different. They welcome Jesus in. Even though they are sinners like the other Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees, they are not hostile. The fact that Jesus is able to sit down and enjoy a meal with them shows this. While they may disagree, there is a chance of reconciliation here.
You know your casting your pearls to swine when after repeated attempts to witness and evangelize that person wants nothing to do with you or worse, becomes angry with you. If such were the case with the Tax Collectors and Pharisees Jesus was sitting with, then they wouldn’t have been eating with him.
(3) Is this biblical principle to be used in every situation
I think scripture makes it very clear that discernment is an important thing for a believer to have. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says to “test everything.” Not all people who are hostile initially are worth ignoring and not all people who we think are fertile soil are immune to turning hostile towards the Gospel later.
Discernment therefore becomes a key part of knowing how to apply this scripture. Are there non-believers that Jesus tells us we are not to pursue/preach the Gospel too once they reject us. Yes. But does that mean that anytime someone rejects us, that we then have an excuse not to evangelize to them? No. When one sheep leaves the fold, does the Shepherd not pursue it? (Luke 15:1-7)
We must remember that scripture often paints a picture of “possibilities”. In order to know how to engage others, we must daily spend time with God, especially in the Word and prayer in order to know what sort of action is required in each and every possible situation.
These kinds of things will help us to know whether we are dealing with a potential brother or sister coming to Christ or a blasphemer who wants nothing to do with faith.
The harvest is plentiful friends! We need to be strategic in our evangelism. At the same time we should not ignore those in need. Some of greatest Christian converts have been men and women who were the worst sinners. The apostle Paul is a fine example of this truth.
In summary, here’s what I want to say: Witness to everyone and when a time comes where you’ve exhausted all possible options with somebody and they have become furious beyond all reason, then turn and move onto the next person. But don’t forget to pray for them because you never know what God might do!