The pig and the pearl
These amazing but often misunderstood words from Jesus, who said,
“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 7:6.
It seems in this passage that we see some people are swine or pigs.
The meaning? “Some people just cannot appreciate what is sacred and holy”. But, on the other hand, we have pearls: Pearls of wisdom, of truth, pearls of good advice,
These are the pearls that straighten people out if only they would receive them, so should we just not waste our time on such people…such swine? Is that what Jesus is saying?
Does that seem like something Jesus would really say and do?
“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.”
We have often been quite unsure of what we ought to do with this teaching.
A group of kids were asked : “What does this saying mean, ‘Don’t cast your pearls before swine’?”
Jacob (age 6) said, “it means I would never give my sister my toys.”
Is that what Jesus had in mind? …….do not throw your pearls to pigs
Here is the problem with the, “Some people are unworthy swine who you should not help” interpretation. The same Bible consistently teaches that ALL are fallen, broken, messed-up people. “All we like sheep have gone astray…” (Isaiah 53: 6)
Well, that’s everybody, starting with you and me. Now if Jesus is the great treasure, then he should never have been cast into the midst of us, because we’re ALL in the messed-up people category.
But Jesus actually said it was precisely for the messed-up, sinful, wicked people that he came. ….“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9: 12)
Jesus did not teach that we shouldn’t do good things for people who might reject or misuse them. He, in fact, taught precisely the opposite. “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good…” (Matthew 5: 44, 43)
Let’s be very clear. Jesus is not saying here that certain classes of people are to be viewed as pigs or dogs that are unworthy of our great pearls. Nobody ever taught or modelled the worth and dignity of every human being with the depth, clarity, and urgency of Jesus Christ.
The problem with giving a pearl to a pig is not that the pig isn’t worthy. The problem is a pearl is not a helpful thing to give to a pig.
Jesus is actually getting to a much deeper problem in human relationships, with wisdom that could save your friendships, your marriage, or your relationship with your kids.
Sometimes the pearl you have that is so wonderful, that you want so badly to give, will not be wanted and will not be helpful.
In that case, you shouldn’t try to force it on somebody. A pearl does not nourish a pig, and nourishment is what the pig is looking for. What will help a pig is food. If you put slop in the trough, you’ll have a happy, healthy pig.
If you keep putting pearls in the trough, you will not have a happy pig. You will have a resentful pig.
When you study the Bible, you always want to keep in mind the larger context of the passage at which you’re looking.
In Matthew 7 Jesus is talking about the wrong ways of relating to people to which religious folks are particularly prone. He warns people against condemnation engineering.
In Matthew 7: 3-5 where Jesus said, “Don’t point out the speck in your brother or sister’s eye when there is a plank in your own.” he warns people against criticising and blaming.
Now he says, “Do not throw your pearls to pigs.”
He is still talking about the wrong ways religious people relate to others.
Some of you are wondering, “Does this mean we get a pearl to remind us of this blog?” – No. A pig, maybe.
Jesus is forbidding the practice of what we might call “PEARL PUSHING.” This is when you’re trying to push your pearls (your wisdom, your will, your way, your superior knowledge) onto another person, even when they don’t want it, even when it’s not being helpful.
Now if you’ve been through the Bible a few times, you might wonder,
“But doesn’t ‘pearl’ in the Bible always mean something of great value to Jesus?” e.g. when he talks about the kingdom of heaven as a “pearl of great price”. (Matthew 13: 45-46)
Jesus, like any other good communicator, often uses images quite flexibly – one time he describes the kingdom of heaven being like yeast because of its amazing growth,
- but another time says, “Beware the yeast of the scribes or the Pharisees.” (Matthew 16:6) There yeast is a negative thing.
Jesus here is teaching with unforgettable humour, and you have to put “pearl” and “pig” in air quotes.
PEARL PUSHERS just drift into the habit of criticising more naturally than encouraging. That’s what a pearl pusher does. The apostle Paul says, “Let us therefore stop turning critical eyes on one another.” (Romans 14: 13). That’s what pearl pushers do.
Pearl pushers take it upon themselves to correct everybody else because they notice where other people are wrong. This bleeds into everything they do!
Somebody said there are only two kinds of drivers in the world.
“There are maniacs who drive faster than I do and idiots who drive slower than I do.”
You know….if you search for faults, you will be successful. But you’ll go through life wondering, “Why don’t people seem to want to be around me?”
Pearl pushing is a VERY lonely way to live. Pearl pushers tend to adopt a tone of superiority.
Therefore, the teaching here is that if the pig isn’t ready for your pearl, don’t push your pearl.
Part of love is not just knowing what to say; it’s knowing when to say it and knowing when to not say it.
Proverbs 27:14 “If anyone loudly blesses their neighbour early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.”
Why?…..The pig wants to sleep! Now the pearl might be genuinely good wisdom. Maybe the pearl is the gospel about Jesus itself.
There is a woman I know, and she really loved Jesus. That’s a good thing.
She wanted her husband to love Jesus. That’s a good thing.
She had this spiritual pearl she wanted to give him so much, but she kept trying to force the pearl on him.
She would tell him, “Read this spiritual book. Listen to this podcast. Consider these five proofs that God exists.”
She would constantly remind him, “I’m praying for you.”
Sometimes she prays at the dinner table while her husband is sitting there for Jesus to save her husband. “Have another pearl. Have another pearl!” The pig/husband was not happy about this.
When it comes to telling other people about your faith, how are you going to know?… when people might be open to exploring God, or might even be open to coming to church? Think how hard that is!!!
We want to adjust our level of supply to be commensurate to their level of demand.
Pearl pushing can happen in a marriage. It can happen in a workplace. It can happen between friends. It can happen in a church. One of the most damaging kinds of pearl pushing is that of parents and those who mentor and guide children.
Parental pearl pushing is a big source of alienation in families. Jesus’ point is don’t force your pearls on a non-receptive person.
You cannot control any other human being. They have their kingdom. It’s not your kingdom. We cannot make sure any human being turns out right. We have to let go. We have to make space for God to do what ONLY God can do. God is the only one who can enter into their kingdom at the deepest level.
There is a man I know who had a child kind of late in life.
He said his prayer was, “God, do not give me a child unless that child will be a lifelong Christian.”
He wanted a divine guarantee that he would have a no-risk child when it came to faith. “I don’t want the pain of having to love a child who does not hold faith as I do.”
I’m not sure I would want to be that man’s child.
God made everybody to be free to choose……God makes people free,
Free even at the cost of great pain to God himself.
Free even when they use their God-given freedom to reject Him
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”
WE don’t change ANYONE!!
This is one of the things we pearl pushers just have to learn.
I think the world is kind of tired of Christians trying to force their pearls on others.
I don’t think it’s actually our job to try to go around day after day correcting people or trying to fix people. It’s time for followers of Jesus to just come along side people and offer hope, healing, humility, servanthood, generosity, and love.
When did you last come along side someone and offer hope, healing, humility, servanthood, generosity, and love?
This then raises the question…If you’re not supposed to relate to people by judging or condemning and if you’re not allowed to force advice on them and you’re not supposed to do relationship by criticism, then how are you supposed to relate to people?
What are we supposed to do if we’re concerned about something or there’s a problem where you want one thing and they want another?
Jesus has a way, a better way.
It is actually the best practice for human relationships on earth.
It is how we are to relate not only to other people but also to God.
As you go from one relationship to another, ask God this question
“God, would you help me to see what you see when you look at this person?
“Lord Would you help me to think what you think and feel what you feel and say what you say?”
“God would your grace change me so much that I can’t help but be grace our toward others: like salt and light!
Then another bit of His kingdom comes from up-there to down-here through us and flows into the lives of those around us!