If there were ever a time when his hearers missed the point, I would have to say it was this one verse out of the entire mountainside sermon. Listen and see if you don’t agree:
Okay, right. Where did that come from, Rabbi? One minute we’re talking about not judging others, and then you tell us not to give what is holy to dogs or pearls to pigs.
Did Jesus lose you there too?
Though the Holy Spirit is helpful in discerning and understanding the Word of God, there are times when we think he must have missed something. How can we know what was going on in Jesus’s mind as he was looking out over that crowd and sharing such truth or pearls of wisdom, so to speak? Pun intended.
What we can do in such situations is express what we do know. In this case, we know from the historical setting of the Jewish people that both dogs and pigs are considered unclean animals. Therefore, in and of itself, it makes sense that you would not give a dog (something filthy) something that was sacred or holy. That would immediately desecrate that which was considered holy.
The same with the pigs. Pearls, considered precious stones or something of value, would not be given to pigs, who were dirty and dug in the mud. They would trample on the pearls, perhaps even destroy them, rendering them worthless.
Both dogs and pigs, when given things that were not in keeping with the nature of the animals, would even perhaps turn on the one who gave them the items, causing them harm.
Moving now to neutral language, we understand that you don’t give something that is pure and valuable to someone who is not ready to receive it or not receptive to it. If you do, they will reject it, trample it by slander, and then perhaps even attack you for the offer.
What has Jesus given us here that is holy and valuable?
In my estimation, as I look back over all the sermon to this point; Jesus has given us teaching that is truth itself, making it something of great value, worthy of keeping and heeding. It is teaching literally from God to man.
So, if a person has no interest in Christ and instead insists on living a life of debauchery and by worldly standards, it is not worth sharing the depths of Christ’s teaching, for they will throw it back in your face. This says to me that Jesus knew his words were hard for all to hear. Those who were open and willing, they were taking in as best they could what he had been sharing so far. He obviously knew, however, that there were others, perhaps on the fringes of the crowd, who were cursing him under their breath as he spoke.
They had a hard time getting rid of the planks in their eyes because they were blinded by them; leaving them satisfied in their judgment of this radical rabbi and his ragtag group of followers.
Jesus didn’t get sidetracked by this thought, but he did share it because he knew there would be moments in the lives of his disciples and the generations of followers to come when the truth of the gospel would be ridiculed and rejected. He shared this simple, confusing sentence to remind us to give wide berth to those kinds of people. Do a symbolic shaking of the dust from your shoes with them. Focus on those God has prepared to hear and let him deal with the rest who don’t care.
We can only do this when we rely on the Holy Spirit by his
Grace and Peace