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Matthew 7:6 Pearls Before Swine

Matthew 7:1-5 is the passage, probably familiar to many, that tells us not to judge lest we be judged. Whatever standard we use to judge others will be used to judge us as well. Christ gives the example of trying to remove a speck of dust from your brother’s eye while you have a plank in your own. Then we get to verse 6 which talks about dogs and pigs. In Jesus’ time, both of these were considered unclean and undesirable.

Many commentaries will tell you that Matthew 7:6 means that we should not present the gospel to anyone who refuses to listen. This view has support from other passages in the Bible, such as Proverbs 23:9 which tells us not to bother trying to talk sense to fools, and Matthew 10:14 which advised the disciples to shake the dust from their feet when they left a town where they weren’t welcome. When a Canaanite woman asked Jesus to heal her daughter (Matthew 15:21-28), Jesus told her that it was not right to throw the children’s bread to the dogs.

That is not to say that we should avoid talking to anyone who doesn’t believe as we do, or who questions what we believe, for Christ certainly did not set that example. The Bereans were commended for their questioning (Acts 17:10-11), because it showed that they were eager to understand.

Other commentaries suggest that this verse continues the teaching on judgement. Judgement in the first five verses of the chapter is about criticism or condemnation, something that we have no authority to do. That is God’s job. The judgement referred to in verse six is equivalent to discernment. We must not badger or enrage someone who has heard what we have to say but refuses to agree with us, and it requires discernment to determine whether people fit into that category or are questioners like the Bereans.

My pastor has a different point of view. He would explain to you that if you have withheld food from animals, even domesticated ones, long enough, they will turn on you. If you throw pearls to hungry pigs, even though they are seen as valuable to you, they would be of no use to the pigs. Therefore, my pastor would argue, you need to provide unbelievers with that which is helpful to them. Consider what the recipient needs rather than what makes you look noble. Getting back to the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:27-28, we see that she was commended for her faith when she answered Jesus saying that even the dogs are allowed to eat the crumbs that fall from the table.

So what are we to do? Exercise discernment, and if you need some, ask God for it. (James 1:5) Be willing to speak to anyone until you know that they don’t want to have anything to do with you. Try to be helpful to those you encounter. Don’t spout doctrine in “Christianese”, but answer their questions as clearly and honestly as you can.

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  1. Pingback: Resources for Matthew 15:27 - 28

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