Matthew 7:6 (NIV) “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”
Much has been written and discussed about who Jesus considered dogs and who He considered pigs. But those discussions miss the real point.
Both animals were listed as unclean in the law. Jesus is using them to point out that those who are unclean, unforgiven, and who have no desire to repent, will have no appetite for the things of the kingdom, so it is a waste of time to try to argue them into seeing and understanding spiritual matters in their present state.
Jesus’ main target here was not gentiles, which might be a natural way for Jewish people to interpret those words. The context of His remarks shows that He is talking about the Pharisees and teachers of the law. The vast majority of them, though just as spiritually corrupt and stained as anyone else, saw themselves as holy and righteous, and thus were impervious to calls to repent. They saw themselves as the core of God’s kingdom, so the calls of John the Baptist and Jesus to enter the kingdom were received with scoffing and hostility.
Jesus pointed out that those kinds of people, when shown the treasures of the kingdom, will, at best, merely scoff, trampling those treasures underfoot, treating them as waste. At worst, they could be expected to turn on the messenger and tear them to pieces, which they demonstrated in spades when they plotted against Jesus, and ultimately had Him crucified for no other crime than sharing with them the truths of the kingdom, and trying to get them to see themselves as God saw them, so that they would be moved to repent.
Some might take Jesus’ words as motivation to never share the gospel with others. After all, why share the good news with people who are not in the kingdom, and who might get hostile? But that was not Jesus’ purpose here. He was talking principally about people who were actively hostile or fighting against the kingdom. We need to remember that God is continually working in the hearts of those who are not yet part of the kingdom, drawing them to Himself, and sending His people (us!) to share the good news with them. Good examples of this are Nicodemus (John 3), the Samaritan woman (John 4), Cornelius and his household (Acts 10), and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40).
Jesus is telling His disciples that when they find hostility to the gospel, they will be wasting their time, and maybe even putting themselves in danger, if they just keep pushing. He reinforced this idea with the twelve when He sent them out. (See Matthew 10:5-6, 14-16.) If hostility is encountered, it is best to simply move on, and pray that those hearts will be softened. Perhaps the next messenger, or even yourself at a later date, will find softer soil and a more receptive heart.
Father, it really is in a lot of people’s nature to push and to argue, to try to “close the sale” when sharing the gospel, even when the ground is hard and unyielding. It’s even more likely that we’ll keep pushing if the person or people are important to us. Help me in those situations to remember that those people are just as important to You as they are to me, and that You will continue to work on their hearts so that they will have every chance to turn to You in repentance, if they are willing. And keep our eyes and ears open to where You are working, so that we never miss an opportunity to partner with You in the harvest. Amen.