Pearls and Pigs

By Irvin Himmel

“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

This is a quotation from our Lords memorable sermon on the mount. The lesson may not be as readily perceived as others in the same discourse, and  the verse is sometimes misapplied, but the thought advanced is an important one.

Dogs and hogs were considered unclean by the Jews. Although sometimes domesticated, “the great mass of dogs ran wild” (Dictionary of the Bible, J. D. Davis). These animals were the scavengers that roamed the streets and fields in packs. Wild dogs can be very vicious. To the mind of the Jew, the mention of swine suggested another type of animal that could be exceedingly fierce. Most of the swine in Palestine, though sometimes herded, were probably quite wild in Bible times.

Jesus mentioned dogs and hogs to illustrate the thought that some people are vile and vicious. Like dogs, some men snarl, snap, bite, and devour. They are morally filthy and given to brutality. Like the pig that wallows in the mire, they wallow in sin and feed on filth. Having no desire to escape sin, they will “tear into” anyone who makes an attempt to help them.

Preaching the gospel to some people is to no avail due to their incorrigible condition. It means no more to them than the Lords Supper would mean if given to a literal dog! They scoff at all which is held sacred by Gods people. They have no more appreciation for truth and righteousness than a pig would have for pearls. A pig likes corn, nuts, beans, husks, and slop — anything he can eat. Valuable pearls mean nothing to him.

A hog can be a very mean animal. He may even attack the person who is feeding him. Some people are equally senseless and mean toward all who try to teach them the word of God. They are beyond any hope of repentance and will stoop to the lowest schemes to destroy a godly mans good name. The writer of Proverbs had such people in mind when he said, “He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee” (Prov. 9:7, 8).

In the first rive verse of Matt. 7, Jesus warned against harsh, unjust judgment. However, his words are not to be taken as suggesting that all judging is wrong. In John 7: 24, he said, “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” If we are not to give that which is holy to dogs and not I to cast pearls before swine, we must, wisely judge that some people are like these vile and vicious animals.

R. L. Whiteside once observed that “excessive, zeal, sometimes leads a Christian to preach the gospel to people under circumstances that only infuriates them.” Of course, we cannot always know ones real character and disposition, but, when we do know that one is as unholy as a dog and as unappreciative of the truth as a pig is of pearls, and when we see proof of senseless brutality or viciousness, we should be wise enough to apply the teaching of Matt. 7:6.

Paul preached the gospel in Antioch of Pisidia, and “almost the whole city” came together to hear the word of God. But when the unbelieving Jews began contradicting and blaspheming, he and Barnabas said, “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:44-46). Further attempts to reach these scoffing opposers would have been like giving something sacred to a, dog or casting pearls before a pig!

Similarly, when Paul had preached for three months in the synagogue at Ephesus, many were hardened in their hearts against the truth and believed not, and began speaking evil of the Lords way, so Paul “departed from them” (Acts 19:8,9). They proved to the apostle that they had no more respect for the gospel than a dog for something holy, and no more desire for the truth than a hog has for pearls, and they were ready to “rend” the preacher, so why should he waste valuable time and effort on them?

I know that we hate to give up on anybody. We are slow to admit that some people are indeed like dogs and hogs. But life is too short and there are too many people hungering and thirsting after righteousness for Christians to waste the precious pearls of divine truth by casting them before men who, act, like swine. After the gospel has been presented to an individual and he, by his attitudes, and actions, judges himself unfit for eternal life, it is time to depart.

Lets face it — there are situations when we must shake the dust from our feet and move to others who will be receptive. Jesus knew that many would reject the truth. He wanted his disciples to act wisely and with discrimination. The lesson of Matt. 7:6 is really quite simple and we need to apply it. The examples from the apostle Paul show us how to apply it. If we do not apply it, we are as foolish as one who casts pearls before pigs!

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 47, pp. 5-6
October 5, 1972