Do not give dogs what is holy; do not throw your pearls before swine. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6 Berean Study Bible)
In His teachings about not judging others, Christ places a proviso – that having a non-judgmental spirit toward others cannot be a backdoor entry into indiscretion. He does not leave us the option to simply say, “Well, since I am not to judge others, then I suppose I am not responsible to identify anything specifically as truth or falsehood, or any action as moral or immoral.” Christ does not leave us with that excuse.
If we did try and claim it – and many I know do take this approach, that in being non-judgmental they accept everything as being equally true – then even this command not to judge is meaningless. To be tolerant, gracious, patient, and self-effacing does not require us to be incapable of identifying truth from falsehood.
The best way to understand this command is to return to Christ’s teachings in the start of His Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes. There we see the attitudes He is instructing His followers to adopt: admission of personal poverty of spirit, mourning for sin, meekness before God, hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness, mercifulness toward others, purity of heart (in the sense of receiving God’s forgiveness), seeking to make peace between people and God and between people and other people, and even helping people achieve personal peace within themselves. This non-judgmental attitude toward others is simply these attitudes working themselves out in application.
“Dogs” were both considered indiscreet in their appetites and in their morals. Jews did not commonly have dogs as household pets, rather they were considered as scavengers. They could attach themselves with loyalty to some pack, or to some people, but there was no ability in their own soul to ascertain truth. The title seemed appropriate for the Gentile world as a whole, that though they could behave with decency in some circumstances, they did not have an understanding of God, or of truth, or of proper morality.
The Greeks and Romans that had conquered Israel and controlled Palestine in those years, would be an example of this. Though impressive in some of their philosophies, creative artistically and powerful militarily, they also had peppered the known world with brothels, and promoted the immoral rites of worship of some gods and goddesses. They could not be made partners in forming some new mix of religions.
“Swine” or “pigs” were unclean animals to the Jews, and they were likewise indiscreet in their appetites. They stood for those who cannot distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, or truth and falsehood.
“Pearls” were the nuggets of truth that could change a person’s direction in life, that could bring repentance, conversion, grace and forgiveness, and a new hope. A “pearl” might also be a rebuke – given in the right way, of course, given by someone who had in repentance and meekness let God remove the beam from his own eye, and came to another in utter humility and with a desire to only help.
Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (Proverbs 9:7-10 ESV)
Followers of Christ should be compassionate toward all, and loving toward all. We should proclaim the gospel to the whole world and to any one who will listen. But there is also the time and place when we should pull back from those who would take the message and corrupt it, who would twist it and use it as some excuse to persecute Christians.
This prophecy was fulfilled in the early church, for the Gentile world accused Christians of things such as cannibalism, on the basis of the observance of Communion. Christ’s words, “This is my body, take eat,” were misrepresented and rumours were spread to create fear and disgust among the population for the Christian faith. And many other Christian teachings in our day are being twisted and misrepresented – child discipline, marriage and family, and abortion and homosexuality – and the church is being painted in the colour of intolerance, rather than compassionate concern for what is right.
So, in conclusion, we should know where we stand and should show discretion and wisdom in who we speak with, and how we speak with them. Love and compassion should be modelled with patience and kindness toward others, yet we should not backdown from the truth. And we should be very careful of those who seek to join the unbelieving world and create some new religious paradigm. We must stand on the Word of God and on the gospel of Jesus Christ.