“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 then turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6).
These are strong and difficult words for contemporary ears.
The thought of purposefully refusing to reach out to someone is hard for Christians to understand. But Christians are in great danger when they refuse to be discerning; when they are unwilling to make proper judgments.
- “It is easy to see how new danger arises. The disciple of Jesus has been told to love his neighbor as himself, and to love his enemies. He is to mirror God’s graciousness, the God who even-handedly sends his rain upon both the just and the unjust. He has been told never to adopt a judgmental mentality. As a result, he is in chronic danger of becoming wishy-washy, of refusing legitimate distinctions between truth and error, good and evil. He may even try to treat all men in exactly the same way, succumbing to a remarkable lack of discrimination” (D. A. Carson, Sermon on the Mount, p. 105).
Are there some who should not receive ministry?
In Matthew 7:6, Jesus taught that there are people who should not receive our efforts and ministry. The proverbs offer something similar by warning us not to “reprove a scoffer,” but to “reprove a wise man” (Proverbs 9:7-9).
Consider the instruction to, “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him (reject or dismiss, remove from the fellowship of the Christian community). You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11).
Jesus chose two animals (both despised and ceremonially unclean) and he demanded what seems incredulously obvious. Don’t give what is sacred/holy (perhaps sacred meat) to the dogs and don’t cast your pearls (costly jewels) to pigs.
Who would do that?
Jesus obviously did not intend for this to be taken literally with regard to dogs and pigs. It would be ridiculous to do such things. So who did Jesus mean to identify as dogs and pigs? And what should be withheld from them?
In principle, we’re told to withhold something of value from an unworthy object — from dogs and pigs. But how this should apply is not immediately evident.
Jesus had been dealing with the matter of relating to other people. In Matthew 7:1-5, He taught His disciples not to judge others hypocritically but to offer constructive help proceeded by self-judgment.
“If our Lord had finished His teaching with those first five verses, it would undoubtedly have led to a false position. Men and women would be so careful to avoid the terrible danger of judging in that wrong sense that they would exercise no discrimination, no judgment whatsoever. There would be no such thing as discipline in the church, and the whole of the Christian life would be chaotic. There would be no such thing as exposing heresy and pronouncing judgment with regard to it. Because everybody would be so afraid of judging the heretic, they would turn a blind eye to the heresy and error would come into the church more than it has done. So many people show a lack of discrimination and are ready to praise and recommend anything that is put before them which vaguely claims the name Christian” (Sermon on the Mount, pp. 183-184).
D. A. Carson
“Jesus is commanding His disciples not to share the richest parts of spiritual truth with persons who are persistently vicious, irresponsible, and unappreciative. Their cynical mockery, their intellectual arrogance, their love of moral decay, and their vaunted self-sufficiency make them utterly impervious to the person and words of Christ. Over the years I have gradually come to the place where I refuse to attempt to explain Christianity and introduce Christ to the person who just wants to mock and argue and ridicule. It accomplishes nothing good, and there are so many other opportunities where time and energy can be invested more profitably” (Sermon on the Mount, p. 105).
Misguided understanding of Christian compassion can lead us to wrongly invest our ministry. It’s important that we practice Jesus’ teaching in our evangelism and discipleship.
Jesus’ own ministry
Did he deal with everyone exactly the same way? No. Jesus was wisely discriminate in His ministry to people. He compassionately ministered to many, but He also said to leave the Pharisees alone (Matthew 150. Although we cannot read the hearts of people, generally, it is wise to conclude that self-righteous, proud, arrogant, and cynical people fit into our Lord’s category of dogs and pigs. This should not surprise us because God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5-6).
Through Isaiah the prophet, God said,“But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at my Word.”
John R. W. Stott
“If people have had plenty of opportunity to hear the truth but do not respond to it, if they stubbornly turn their backs on Christ, if (in other words) they cast themselves in the role of ‘dogs’ and ‘pigs,’ we are not to go on and on with them, for then we cheapen God’s gospel by letting them trample it under foot” (Sermon on the mount).
We must pray for wisdom in this matter. We need to “ask,” “seek’” and “knock.” Many have come to Christ — who at one time mocked His name. We must be prayerfully discerning in our application of Matthew 7:6!