On Love And Discernment
Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. (Matthew 7:6, NKJV)
After He warned us against judgmental attitudes and self-blind criticism, Jesus here reminded us that He did not mean to imply that the people of His Kingdom suspend all discernment. They must discern that there are some good, precious things that should not be given to those who will receive them with contempt.
We might say that Jesus means, “Don’t be judgmental, but don’t throw out all discernment either.”
The dogs and swine here are often understood as those who are hostile to the Kingdom of God and the message that announces it. Our love for others must not blind us to their hardened rejection of the good news of the kingdom.
Yet we may also see this in the context of the previous words against hypocrites. It may be that in Jesus’ mind, the dogs and swine represent hypocritical, judgmental believers. These sinning hypocrites should not be offered the pearls that belong to the community of the saints.
“The Didache, or, to give it its full name, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, which dates back to a.d.; 100 and which is the first service order book of the Christian Church, lays it down: “Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist except those baptized into the name of the Lord; for as regards this, the Lord has said, ‘Give not that which is holy unto dogs.’” – William Barclay
Jesus also spoke in the context of correcting another brother or sister. Godly correction is a pearl (though it may sting for a moment) that must not be cast before swine (those who are determined not to receive it).
Our pearls of the precious gospel may only confuse those who do not believe, who are blinded to the truth by the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4) and may only expose the gospel to their ridicule.
“The gospel is to be preached to every creature, Mark 16:15. But when the Jews were hardened and spoke evil of that way before the multitude, Acts 19:9, the apostles left preaching them.” – Matthew Poole
Of course, Jesus did not say this to discourage us from sharing the gospel. Previously in this very sermon, Jesus told us to let our lights shine before the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus said this to call us to discernment, and to encourage us to look for prepared hearts that are ready to receive. When we find such open hearts, we can trust that God has already been working on them.
Abba Father God, as we go through this world, give us discernment and mercy. We must be merciful and yet wise. Help us not to waste what is sacred on those who are hardened against You. In Jesus name, Amen.
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