“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matt. 7:6).
In context, Jesus is talking about criticism, and not having a censorious spirit. What Jesus is teaching, is that when we are critical of others, we must be sensible.
If Christians fail to exercise grace and mercy, if we fail to be holy before we render a verdict, if we are not aware of the beam in our own eye, if we do not engage in judging righteously, our criticism will be unwanted, and we will be despised. The verdict will be trampled underfoot. It will be discarded. Then, the person that has been criticized will turn and destroy the critical person. One reason the Church is hated by the world, is because it stands in judgment on moral issues, such as abortion, divorce, and homosexuality. People who engage in evil do not want to be told they are wrong.
Jesus is teaching that while some criticism is justifiable, it is to be limited, and for a good reason. Criticism touches the pride of a person. Criticism makes a person feel small. Criticism can be demeaning. And, if a person is wrong in their criticism of someone else, what is said can be explosively destructive. Therefore, criticism is to be carefully engaged in.
There is another principle in the passage. The Christian is not to give that which is holy to “dogs,” or cast their gospel pearls before “swine.” Extreme caution must be taken to determine who the “dogs” are, and who the “swine” are.
In Jewish culture, according to the book of Leviticus, “dogs” and “swine” were unclean animals. Spiritually, “dogs” and “swine” refer to unbelievers.
Paul refers to dogs in Philippians 3:2. “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision,” referring to the legalistic Judaizers, who wanted Gentile Christians to go back under the Law and be circumcised.
Peter writes of “dogs” and “swine” in 2 Peter 2:22. “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow [female swine] that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
That there are human “dogs” and human “swine” is sad reality. Fallen humanity is evil. Individuals need to be redeemed from the slave market of sin. Apart from redemption, raw power will be the guiding principle in the soul of a person. The survival of the fittest will be all that matters. Might makes right. Individuals without Christ will act like animals.
The Christian is of a different persuasion, and character. The Christian knows there is more to life than raw power. The Christian is willing to be properly judgmental and say that someone, and some things, are right, or wrong. The Christian is compelled to render a righteous judgment, and decide who is a “dog” and who is a “swine.” However, judgment is to be limited, and so is the presentation of the gospel.
Jesus is teaching that we are to be careful when we criticize others, and, He is teaching the Church must not carelessly expose to unbelievers the valuable pearls of God, referring to divine truths. The Lord is very emphatic and says, “Never think of giving that which is holy to the dogs.”
There is to be discrimination in evangelism. This is a principle which is rarely taught in classes on personal evangelism, but, it is the stated will of the Lord.
Few Christians are willing to teach the Biblical truth, that not all people will be saved. Even fewer will concede that Christianity is exclusive in its teaching. These are very unpopular thoughts in modern society. The world demands people be tolerant, and inclusive of other thoughts and opinions, no matter how destructive those thoughts have been proven to be. In the Kingdom of God, the Lord of the kingdom has decreed that His servants be careful with the treasures, the pearls, He has entrusted to them. There are times when the gospels should not be given to certain people.
When the gospel should not be given, and to whom it should not be given, must be determined by the Spirit. But the principle of discrimination is plainly stated. “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.”
Sometimes, well-meaning and sincere Christians want to force their faith on others in a public place. There is a determination to offer prayer in a public setting in an arbitrary manner. A gospel prayer is not asked for. It is not wanted. It is not appreciated. But prayer is insisted upon before unbelievers, resulting in awkward silence, deep resentment, and renewed hatred of Christ and Christians. Gospel pearls are trampled underfoot.
Sometime, zealous Christians are determined to witness, though the Spirit has not given permission to speak. In misguided holy boldness, some Christians fail to discriminate in evangelism. So they provoke the “dogs,” and the “swine,” and are predictably persecuted.
There are Christians who have failed to grasp the words of Jesus about being discriminating. Let the Church hear the Lord on this matter. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. 14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matt. 15:13-14). There are plants which God has not planted. There is discrimination in God’s dealings with men. There are some who should be let alone.
All truth is not for all pagans. There is a necessity for Christians to engage in discrimination in evangelism.
Jesus followed His own teaching and methodology. For example, there was a time when Jesus came before Herod. What a great opportunity that was, according to some, who believe in Strategic Evangelism. The idea is to reach certain classes of people because they have influence over so many others.
By way of illustration, there is a particular ministry that targets athletes to evangelize. It is believed that if athletes can be won to Christ, there will be widespread influence over many others. Well, Jesus stood before King Herod who wanted to know more about the gospel. Had Herod been converted, he would have had a lot of influence over others.
The story picks up at that point.
“And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. 9 Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing” (Luke 23:8-9).
Jesus knew that Herod was not planted by the Father. Jesus knew that Herod had not been given to Him by God. So Jesus was discriminatory. He was silent. Jesus did not cast His Father’s pearls before this unbeliever, this dog, this swine. We know this because Herod had already heard the gospel, and rejected it. Herod was interested in miracles, but he was not interested in Jesus being his Lord and Savior. There are people who are interested in the doctrine of Christ, for they like to argue against His divinity. There are people who are interested in the music of the Church, for they enjoy aesthetic beauty. There are people who are interested in the oratory of Christian preachers, for they enjoy a good speech. There are people who are attracted to the sensation aspects of the Christian message. They find entertainment value in the display of signs and wonders. But these people, like Herod, do not love Jesus. And so they move to hurt Him, and trample the gospel truths underfoot.
When Herod found that Jesus was not going to engage him, the Bible says, that, “Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate” (Luke 23:11). Herod himself mocked Jesus, so great was his hatred of the Saviour. Herod belonged to the class of dogs and swine of Scripture. Herod and his men howled like dogs. They grunted like swine.
Lest anyone think that the teaching of the Lord on discriminatory evangelism discourages witnessing, and a widespread sharing of the gospel, know this. There are many souls for whom Christ has died. In the new heaven and the new earth there will be countless souls from every tribe, nation, and tongue that will bow down before the Lord and praise Him. The fields are still white unto harvest. There is much work for God’s people to do.
What Jesus wants, is for His work to be done efficiently, by the Holy Spirit, and with spiritual discernment. The Lord is protective of the Father’s pearls. Every Christian must be protective of holy gospel truths which are of great value.