‘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.
Matthew 7:6Here in the UK, we’re in the midst of an election campaign. It could be quite an interesting election as no one party looks set to gain a majority. There was a time when my feet would scarcely touch the ground during an election. For a couple of elections I played a significant role at the heart of a local campaign, striving to get a good man elected to the House of Commons. I spoke to a great many people about the virtues of my friend and the political party he represented. Some people would listen carefully and say that they would be supporting my friend. Others said that they would be supporting one of the other candidates. A few people got really very angry when I told them who I was representing, ranting and raving about how ‘my lot’ had let them down, exclaiming that there was no way they would vote for us. Sometimes such people even ripped up our campaign leaflets right in front of me. I knew that when I encountered such a reaction, there was little point me trying to gain their support; there was clearly no way that they would ever vote for my friend!
Today’s verse, taken from Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount is potentially very confusing. Why, after his teaching on judging other people, does Jesus suddenly begin talking about dogs and pigs? What do these animals represent?
Neither dogs nor pigs would have been particularly well regarded at the time. Dogs were frequently wild, roaming the streets of towns and villages looking for food, and probably not afraid to give anyone who stood between them and their supper a bit of a nip. Pigs, meanwhile, were regarded as dirty and unclean; a good Jew would not have wanted to be in the vicinity of a pig.
Jesus clearly did not want his followers throwing stuff of value to these disreputable animals, but what could these sacred items, these pearls, be? Elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a pearl, so I suspect that this is what he has in mind here. The ‘sacred’ object he refers to is clearly related to the pearl, and many have surmised that Jesus could have the gospel in mind here.
The question remains – who do the dogs and the pigs represent? Just as I confronted people who responded in a surprisingly violent way to my political campaigning, there are no doubt people who will respond in a similar fashion to the good news of Christ. They have decided that the gospel is a load of bunkum and they have closed themselves off from the good news totally. Such people may metaphorically (and perhaps literally!) trample scripture under their feet and react violently to even a mention of the name Jesus. There comes a time when we should leave these people to their own devices, and move on.
Sharing the gospel with others can be quite tricky at times, but thankfully, evangelism is seldom greeted with such hostility as Jesus describes above. We should clearly continue to tell our friends about Jesus, and not be dissuaded from evangelism should be encounter such a negative response. Whatever response we receive, it is always useful and worthwhile praying that those whom we love who do not know Christ for themselves might have their hearts and minds opened to the good news of Christ.
Listen to this reflection/download Podcast: