Do not give what is holy to dogs—they will only turn and attack you. Do not throw your pearls in front of pigs—they will only trample them underfoot.
[With these words Jesus continues to teach about the Law of Moses as the Sermon on the Mount continues. He takes some of the most important topics and explains to his disciples, in specific terms, what it means to be “more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires” (See Day 23)].
Ah, the “True Love Waits” scripture. It is often used by Christian youth group leaders to get kids to stay celibate. It’s also used by evangelical Christians to release them from any obligation to enter into discourse with anyone who doesn’t agree with them.
To me, this one is kind of a bomb. I don’t like to deliver bad news, but I think there’s evidence that if you are a Gentile (non-Jew) like me, I am not the one casting the pearls in this scripture. I am one of the dogs. Or worse, one of the pigs.
Looking ahead a little, there is a place in Matthew 15 where Jesus clearly calls a Canaanite woman a dog:
Matthew 15:26 – A Canaanite woman who lived in that region came to him. “Son of David!” she cried out. “Have mercy on me, sir! My daughter has a demon and is in a terrible condition.” But Jesus did not say a word to her. His disciples came to him and begged him, “Send her away! She is following us and making all this noise!” Then Jesus replied, “I have been sent only to the lost sheep of the people of Israel.” At this the woman came and fell at his feet. “Help me, sir!” she said. Jesus answered, “It isn’t right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
And pigs, of course, are unclean (i.e. sinful) under Jewish law, just like Gentiles.
I believe that Jesus was telling his disciples that not to share his teachings (pearls) with the Gentiles. They were only supposed to share these teachings with the people of Israel.
I know this seems a little deflating, but Jesus was focused on reforming certain aspects of Jewish religious practice; his intent was not to start a new religion that idolized him. Sort of like Martin Luther wanted to reform the Roman Catholic Church; he didn’t want to found the “Lutheran Church”. And John Wesley wanted to reform the Church of England; it was not his intent to found the Methodist Church. Same sort of thing. Jesus never said he didn’t want to be a Jew.
And maybe Jesus had a point about the dog/pig thing. Here we are today calling ourselves his followers, but what have we Christians done with the Bible? Do we really have any respect for what is holy?
In the Bible dogs are mean and wild and independent. Have Christians used the holy things to viciously attack and even kill people like the dogs in this scripture? Just ask all those people killed by the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Salem witch hunts. Just ask doctors who performs abortions or gay people or American Muslims or Hindus about their perception of whether or not Christians are generally kind and loving.
In the Bible pigs are sinful and dirty. Do Christians really want to serve God, or like filthy pigs do we trample the holy things by expecting God to serve us like Santa Claus? Do we cling to our bad habits, gravitating toward whatever makes us feel good for the moment, and then expect God to bail us out when we experience the natural consequences of our bad choices?
OK. You probably don’t like that interpretation very much. I really don’t like it but I think it may be a fair assessment. (Oh, by the way, Jesus does indeed give in and heal that Canaanite woman’s daughter. He just made her work for it.)
BUT – if you really hate that interpretation here’s another one that assumes we all get to throw the pearls. It’s the principle behind the separation of church and state.
Many of the countries of the Middle East are essentially Islamic theocracies – governments that are run by religious leaders and laws. Even if they have presidents or monarchs, it is the religious leaders who run the show behind the scenes. The sharia laws are those in the Koran which include things like cutting off people’s hands when they steal something or requiring women to be fully covered in public.
If you use this scripture as it relates to forced religion, it says that Jesus is against it. He says that if you give holy things/pearls to people who do not believe they are holy, they will abuse them because they have no respect for them. Instead of looking at them as spiritual disciplines (See Day 38) that will bring them closer to God, unbelievers will look at them as infringements on their civil liberties. This is what happened in the country of Sudan where the Arab-controlled government forced the sharia law on the Christians. War ensued.
The same thing happens when we try to start our own little personal theocracy by bullying those around us to agree with our personal religious beliefs and practices. Like our children, for example. It really doesn’t work. You have to choose holiness, and let other people discover it. You can’t force appreciation for holy things on anyone. Holy things lose their sacredness when in the hands of someone who doesn’t believe in them. The best way to ruin something sacred is to try to force it down other people’s throats.
I mean, everyone loves the 10 Commandments, right? As Christians we consider them holy. It’s become very popular in some areas of the country for people to post them on big signs. We saw a lot of those signs on our recent trip out west. However, would we all be as enthusiastic about the 10 Commandments if they were the law of the land and federal agents hauled us away if we failed to attend church some Sunday morning? Or because someone overheard us saying that we wished we could afford to live in that nice house up the street? I think those 10 Commandments would lose their holiness pretty quickly. They would become a symbol of oppression and we would turn on them and tear them up like wild dogs, then we would trample them like pigs. At least that’s what I think would happen.
Jesus says that you can’t force holiness on people. You can’t make them embrace your spiritual paradigm, no matter how enlightened. Use a little discernment about who you share with and how. We need to keep it all holy. Keep those delicate pearls nice and clean.
What does this scripture say to you?