By Brannon Howse
The Scripture: Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you in pieces.
The Twist: This verse is often used by people to say something like, “I’ve been trying to tell you the truth about this public policy issue, and you will not listen, so I’m done. Since you won’t listen to me, I will not ‘cast my pearls before swine’ anymore.”
Have you heard people do that? They might be talking about a political issue or public policy, trying to tell someone why this politician is right or that one is wrong. Finally, they realize the person won’t believe the candidate or the politician being defended is the one that he or she should be following, and, usually in exasperation, the one making the argument gives up and won’t cast any more “pearls before swine.”
Similar to John 8:32 that we discussed earlier, Matthew 7:6 is twisted into political discussions when it has nothing to do with that. The pearl is not the pearl of your intelligence, your argument, your wisdom, or your conservative position on public policy. The pearl is the Gospel. So the verse can be applied appropriately only when actually presenting the Gospel to someone who then is trampling the Gospel and not listening. To use it as though the pearl is your own wisdom or opinion that someone is not willing to receive is presumptuous, at best.
What is the real issue in Matthew 7:6? Why does the writer instruct us not to give what is holy to the dogs or to cast the pearl of the Gospel before swine?
During biblical days, dogs were not pets in the sense they are today. To call someone a dog was a serious insult. That language was generally reserved for someone of extremely low moral character, such as a male prostitute. “Dog” was an epithet because for the most part, dogs were not man’s best friend in biblical days.
Even as I write this, my yellow lab, April, is lying at my feet. She lies there during each of my daily radio programs as did my yellow lab, Summer, before her until the very week Summer passed away. Anyone who knows me well or listens to my radio program knows my dog lives in the house, travels with my family, and runs errands with me. This, however, was not the way of things in the New Testament. Dogs were miserably inbred, often mean, and good for little except to hang around the junkyard. People kept their distance from these dogs because they would attack you, much as a pack of wolves might. You didn’t want to cross these animals.
The same thing was true of swine. You didn’t mess with pigs; they were more like wild boars. Even today, you’ll read occasionally of someone hunting boar and being killed by one. The pigs in biblical days were similarly dangerous. They could shred you to pieces if you weren’t careful. So the terms “dog” or “swine” are being used in Matthew 7:6 to describe a person who rejects the Gospel. It references an unbeliever who refuses the Gospel, mocks God, and is of such generally low character as to be avoided if at all possible. The person may even be blaspheming God. The seriousness of the charge can be difficult to grasp as we have our favorite pets curled up at our feet, feeling as at home in the house as one of our children. Modern film, television, and radio reflect this same, warm-and-fuzzy (literally) image.
To take another, deeper look at the implications of Matthew 7:6, compare the image of “pearl” used in Matthew 13:45-46:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
What is being compared to a pearl here? The kingdom of heaven. Finding it is of such surpassing value that you’re willing to lay down all you have for this priceless pearl of the Gospel, the priceless way of salvation, the kingdom of heaven.
When the Bible refers to the kingdom of heaven, it is speaking of the Gospel and the way of salvation. References to “preaching the Gospel of the kingdom” or “the kingdom of heaven is like” are talking about the way to salvation, the way to heaven. So when Matthew 7 says, “Don’t cast your pearls before swine,” it means, “Don’t sit there and continue to give the Gospel over and over to someone who is rejecting and blaspheming the Gospel.” At that point, the proper response is to say, “Enough is enough. I’m done.”
Second Peter 2:12 speaks of the same kind of wild animals as described in Matthew 7:6:
But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption.
This verse speaks of false teachers who reject the Gospel and biblical truth. They’re like brute beasts—inbred, wild dogs at a junkyard.
In Acts 18:6 we also see how Paul responded to these brute beasts/dogs/swine when they rejected the Gospel:
But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.
Who is Paul talking about here? He had been testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. And yet the Jews blasphemed, mocked, ridiculed, and trampled the Gospel. That’s when Paul said, “You know what? I’m done. I’m outta here.” He’s doing exactly as Jesus instructed in Matthew 7:6.
I have personally experienced such treatment by unbelievers—some of whom call themselves believers but are, in fact, false teachers—who mock God and blaspheme the Holy Spirit. If this happens to you and you discover who and what they really are (as Paul did), you can walk away with a clear conscience, knowing that you proclaimed the truth of the Gospel. At that point, the person who rejects it is solely accountable for where his or her soul will spend eternity.
So please don’t put up with anyone watering down the power of this scripture and using it for anything other than the Gospel itself. The pearl is the Gospel, the only pearl of great price.
Copyright 2014 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.