Jesus gave several sermons over His three years of ministry, His most famous being the Sermon on the Mount. In this long discourse, Jesus covers a lot of different topics and provides us with many quotable passages like the Beatitudes in chapter 5, and the Lord's Prayer in chapter 6. But one of the more common verses I see quoted amid theological debates is found in Matthew 7. Matthew 7 begins with a discourse on proper judgment, hypocrisy, & pride.
1 “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? 5 Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 6 Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.
This entire section is often misquoted, misapplied, & debated as a whole. From people claiming any & all judgment to be sinful, to others claiming that this is a command to judge everyone. But that is not where I want to focus. Instead, I want to look at verse 6.
“Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.“
Traditionally, we normally hear this interpreted to be Jesus addressing the need for discernment with whom we share the gospel or as many commentaries put it, discriminatory about who we engage with. As a result, this often gets applied to mean several different problematic things, such as Jesus authorizing the avoidance of evangelism, Jesus authorizing the avoidance of theological debate, Jesus authorizing discrimination against certain demographics, or Jesus authorizing the use of name-calling against our enemies.
As I have searched through various commentaries on this verse, we see the same suggested concepts about discernment or discriminating who we address with the Gospel. But this common theme among all these things is where I think our misreading begins. Every one of these commentaries is focused on the people they believe are being called swine. Might I suggest, that this is all completely wrong?
WHAT IS VERSE 6 DOING HERE?
This verse is specifically at the end of a section on judgement and hypocrisy. What is verse 6 doing there? It seems as if this verse was just kinda stuck on as an afterthought, and in many ways it can be read in a manner that almost contradicts what Jesus just said. If this is about discrimination against those who don't believe as many suggest, then why is Jesus putting this at the end of a section where He instructs people not to Judge others, but to instead examine ourselves?
This makes me wonder if the point of this verse is not on the pigs, but on the person that is serving them. Look back at what Jesus said immediately prior in verse 5:
“Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Jesus likens hypocrisy to being blind. The pride we have blinds us. It causes us to not be able to see what, or who is right in front of us. This will make completing any objective more difficult, whether it be removing the speck in the eye of our brother, or even serving those around us. Perhaps the warning about not casting pearls to swine is not about the pearls or the swine but about our inability to effectively minister when we are blinded by our OWN pride & hypocrisy.
What if the message we have here is that when we approach a conversation from an attitude of pride & arrogance, it will be as if we had taken our precious pearls, thinking it to be pig feed, and cast them out to be tread upon?
It doesn't matter how truthful a statement may be, if it is presented from a state of pride, arrogance, or hypocrisy, it will not be communicated effectively. Instead, it will return a reaction of hungry pigs in search of food. But when we take the log out of our eyes, we will be able to see what it is that we have in our hands, & distribute it effectively. I believe that this is actually what we see here in Matthew 7. Jesus in this verse is encouraging inclusion, not discrimination. Yes, this verse is about discernment, but discernment of our hearts, not the hearts of others.
I don't know why this idea is not more common. It lines up much more with everything else we see from Jesus’ sermon & entire ministry as well. I wonder how much of our understanding of this verse lies in the very message Jesus was communicating. The key to judging righteously is about humbly judging ourselves first. Discerning our own faults and our own hypocrisy. Perhaps, the reason we immediately want to apply verse 6 to focus on the other person, is because we still have not done what Jesus asks of us in verse 5.
5 Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 6 Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.