Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why Did Jesus Say, "Don't Cast Your Pearls Before Swine"?

"Don't give a smoker money to buy a good meal because he will just buy more cigarettes," says Waymon, 9.

The dangers of smoking are well documented, but I don't think Jesus had smokes in mind here. If you're puffing two packs a day, your throat and lungs may feel like fried bacon, but that's another matter.

"Do not play with people who do stuff wrong and fight rough," says Jalen, 6. This is great advice to prolong your life on the playground, but where's the connection with pigs and pearls, Jalen?

One of the most troubling interpretations comes from Jacob, 6: "I would never give my sister my toy." Hold on there, Jacob! If you're using this verse to justify "hogging" your toys, it won't work.

Remember the three rules for interpreting the Bible or any text: context, context and context. Let's look at this verse in a slightly larger context: "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).

Here we have dogs, pearls, swine and someone being ripped to pieces. What's going on here?

The big clue is the first part of the verse, "Do not give what is holy to the dogs." Something holy is forbidden for dogs. I know this will be hard for dog lovers to believe, but at the time Jesus spoke these words, dogs were not man's best friend. They usually traveled in packs and were very dangerous.

To call someone a "dog" in the first century was the lowest insult. As they say in Texas, "Them is fightin' words."

The only thing worse than being called a "dog" was to be called a "pig." It's still very effective today. Under the dietary laws given by God for Israel, the pig was a forbidden, unclean animal. It was common for first-century Jews to refer to gentiles as swine because they considered them unclean.

One thing is sure. Jesus didn't try to appease scoffers. He purposely offended them.

Let's look to Jennifer, 10, for more light on what Jesus meant: "Jesus said don't give your pearls to a pig because a pig is too dumb to understand what a pearl is worth."

Spiritual dumbness has nothing to do with one's IQ. You can be a certified genius yet be dumb as a rock in spiritual matters.

But the warning here involves more than spiritual dumbness as in pigs trampling underfoot valuable pearls. There's a parallel thought at the end of the verse that refers back to the dogs.

What is this holy thing that causes dogs to turn on you and tear you to pieces? For the answer, we turn to Sarah, 12: "Don't try to give the gospel to people who have already rejected it."

This could be called the General Patton strategy for spreading the good news. Instead of going through fortifications, Patton's tank commanders went around them.

Jesus spoke of religious leaders who were offended by what he said: "Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into the ditch" (Matthew 15:14).

Don't waste your time preaching to those who are obviously hardened and scornful.

Think about this: The pearl of great value in the Gospel of Matthew is the messianic king and kingdom foretold by the ancient prophets.

Memorize this truth: "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" (Matthew 13:45-46).

Ask this question: Then and now, some see Jesus Christ as the promised messiah and trust him as their savior, while others mock and scornfully reject him. Which will you do?

Carey Kinsolving is a syndicated columnist, producer, author, speaker and website developer. To see more articles like this one, visit The Kids Talk About God website contains free, online content for children and families. See Careys Kid TV Interviews. Print free lessons from the "Kids Color Me Bible" and make your own book. Let an 11-year-old girl take you on a trip around the world in the Mission Explorers Streaming Video. Print Scripture verses illustrated by child artists. Receive a complimentary, weekly e-mail subscription to our Devotional Bible Lessons.

Bible quotations in this Bible lesson are from the New King James Version.

Copyright 2006 Carey Kinsolving

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