March 2nd, 2013: The Sixteenth Day of Lent
March 2, 2013 § 1 Comment
Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.
This teaching certainly appears to be one of the more confusing passages within the Sermon on the Mount. We generally use the New Living Translation, which focuses on readability and accurate translation of ideas. A more literal translation, such as the New Revised Standard, reads like this: “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.”
When faced with a difficult verse, sometimes consulting different translations can be helpful in order to shed a bit more light on what the verse is saying. The phrase, “don’t give what is holy to dogs,” may not mean much to us; most of us probably don’t have many holy things lying about, and if we do, feeding them to dogs is probably the last thing on our mind. Yet, a different translation gives us something that’s a bit easier to work with: “Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy.”
Also, context always helps us in understanding difficult verses. In this verse, we know that we’ve spent the last few days discussing judging and condemnation of others; yesterday, we focused on getting ourselves right before trying to fix others. Knowing that these ideas came first can help us make sense of the next idea that comes along.
The previous verse challenged us to address our own faults before working to address the faults of others. Here, Christ tells us that our efforts should not be wasted on people who will not receive them. The reference to pigs here gives us a clue as well: pigs do not have a value system. They do not know the great worth of peals as opposed to the slop they get fed; therefore, it’s a waste of time (and pearls, for that matter) to give pigs such valuable things.
Have you ever tried to “fix” someone and failed? That might be an example of “casting pearls to pigs.” For one reason or another, your efforts did not accomplish your goals for the other person – your efforts were wasted, and the other person may not have appreciated your words and actions.
If you feel that you are in a position to address the faults and sins of another, it is imperative to be sure that you are in the process of addressing your own faults. Then, you must be sure that the Holy Spirit has led you to address these issues in another person. If he is leading you, you will find that you are sowing seed onto good soil – difficult though it may be. If you are acting out of your own impulsive and selfish aims, you will find yourself casting pearls to pigs.
Lord, I confess that I have tried to “fix” others so that they meet my own standards of perfection; or, worse, I have tried to bend people to my will. Please help me to always act out of humility and your guidance – always addressing my own sins and problems before addressing the issues of others. Amen.