“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
There is something refreshing about civil discourse. The concept of respectfully exchanging different viewpoints on nuanced subjects through the course of discussion and debate has always been something that I have personally enjoyed. Throughout history, civil discourse has been a vitally necessary tool to build and sustain societies. In fact, one of the hallmarks of the United States has been its promotion of civil discourse by way of the Constitution’s first amendment – the right to freedom of speech. However, as our nation continues to become increasingly more divided, civility is rarely a part of the nation’s civil discourse. It appears as if many are no longer open to facts that are in opposition to their presupposed worldview. Likewise, many seem to not even want to know the truth. With this being the case, how is a follower of Christ commissioned with the truth of the gospel supposed to respond to those who refuse to hear it?
Though it is true that God has called those who believe in Him to speak truth in love and to always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in them (Ephesians 4:15, 1 Peter 3:15), Jesus also says not to give what is holy to dogs and not to cast your pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). So, what did Jesus mean by this? Well, to understand this it is important to be aware of the cultural context in which it was said. In the ancient east, there were wild dogs all over the place taking and eating scraps of food wherever they could find it. When Jesus mentioned the holy, it is possible that He was referring to a sacrificial meat that may have been found and devoured by a dog. Additionally, swine (pigs) were viewed in the Jewish culture as ritually unclean animals. As many know, pigs will eat rancid and spoiled food, but they would see no value or worth in a precious pearl. Therefore, if you were to offer a pig your pearls, it would walk right over them and potentially turn on you. Jesus is using allegoric language to make the point that there are certain people who could care less about truth. Like the holy and the pearl, Jesus has offered us divine truths that are of infinite worth, but there are those who are wicked and unclean that will abuse it and or refuse to acknowledge it. Thus, Jesus is telling His followers not to waste their time nor to be overly concerned with those who are spiritually hardened and hostile toward the truth. And that is exactly what Jesus did when He encountered the Scribes and Pharisees who adamantly opposed Him.
I find Jesus’ teaching to be ever so relevant to the Christian today as we continue to witness numerous examples of shouting matches, opinionated blog posts, rhetoric-filled political debates, and so much more. As a Christian amid all the incivility, it is crucial that we hear the words of Jesus – “Do not cast your pearls before swine.” Do not waste your time and energy on those who do not want the truth. I have had to learn this lesson the hard way. There have been many times where I have found myself arguing with individuals for hours until I was blue in the face. Or where I have spent hours reading and responding to internet trolls on social media to no avail. Sometimes, we must do what Jesus did and wisely walk away. Though this command given to us from Jesus can be difficult to obey at times, it is for our good. When Jesus warns His followers about the dogs and pigs in the world, He is protecting them from unnecessary anxiety, frustration, as well as physical and spiritual fatigue. Additionally, Jesus is protecting us from sin. Proverbs 10:19 states, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” Many times, no response is the best response. It is better to say nothing than it is to continue to speak and sin. If we find ourselves in heated conversations with tensions rising, incivility and sin are not far behind. Therefore, we would be wise to refrain from such behavior. Although it is true that God still loves the spiritually hardened individuals who have rejected Him and His word, He commands His followers not to waste their time, energy, or resources on those who do not respect or value them.
So then, let us love others, speak truth, but never cast our pearls before swine.