Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 7:6:
Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again, and rend you (Matthew 7:6).
In keeping with the theme of discernment in Matthew 7, this verse calls for wise judgement in sharing gospel truth.
We can divide the content of this single verse into three parts:
1. A command to disciples NOT to give that which is holy and precious to those who are spiritually incapable of receiving it (v. 6a).
2. If one does so, he risks bringing reproach to the truth (v. 6b).
3. If one does so, he risks bringing injury to himself and to the fellowship of the saints (v. 6c).
Let me offer some application of this teaching to various circumstances:
First, with respect to evangelism:
Some of us may have friends and family with whom we are eager to share the gospel and bear witness to our faith in Christ. We need to recall Ecclesiastes 3:7, which says, there is “a time to keep silence and time to speak.” We need to exercise discernment.
This does not mean, however, that we are to use this teaching as an excuse never to share the gospel. In 1 Peter 3:15 the apostle urges believers to be “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
Remember in Christ’s parable of the sower that the sower sowed promiscuously so that the seed fell on the path, the shallow ground, the thorny ground and the good soil (Matt 13).
See the record of Christ’s encounter with a Canaanite woman with a demon possessed daughter (Matt 15:21-28). When Christ tells her it is not right to give the children’s bread to the dogs (v. 26), she responds that even the dogs eat the crumbs from the table (v. 27). Christ then declares her to be a woman of great faith (v. 28).
We are not to use Matthew 7:6 as an excuse not to share the truth with those whom Christ is drawing.
Second: With respect to apologetics (defending the faith):
Christ here suggests that there can be diminishing returns in merely seeking intellectual dialogue about religion with those who are hostile to the faith or false teachers.
I recall reading the memoir of a Brethren missionary to the Berber people of North Africa who lamented the “missionaries” who spent more time in speaking with nominal Muslims about comparative religion (essentially teaching them Islam) rather than simply sharing with them the gospel.
Look at Peter’s teaching on this in 2 Peter 2. He addresses false teachers (v. 1), referring to them as “natural brute beasts” (v. 12), and concludes by saying it would have been better for them if they had not known the way of righteousness (v. 21), for they are like dogs returning to their vomit or pigs wallowing in their mire (v. 22).
Spurgeon observed: “When men are evidently unable to perceive the purity of a great truth, do not set it before them…. Saints are not to be simpletons; they are not to be judges, but, also, they are not to be fools” (Commentary on Matthew, 70).
Third, with respect to our own self-understanding:
The capacity of the “dog” and the “pig” here recalls Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that the “natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Reading Matthew 7:6 might bring to our minds a remembrance of what we were like before our conversion, before the change of our nature. We were hostile dogs and indifferent swine, till the Lord opened our hearts and renewed our minds through spiritual regeneration and made us new creatures in Christ.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle