I saw a sign once in music school that read “Never try to teach a pig to sing—it frustrates you and annoys the pig”. That has not been easy advice for me to follow. You see, I am like a bulldog chasing a car when I get in an argument. I go as hard as I can, hold on as tight as I can, and don’t know when to give up the chase. This is particularly true related to my core convictions as a Christian. While there are some issues that I can agree to disagree on, there are others that I sometimes, shamefully, get so worked up over I could punch somebody in the nose. As I have studied and meditated on the truths of this verse, I have been convicted of the fact that there are times where we as Christians must be willing to say “Enough is enough” and that I personally need to be willing to forgo the goal of winning a battle so as not to loose the war.
First of all, notice that Jesus here commands discrimination. In this verse, we are told “Do not give” and “Do not throw”. Whether we are giving (didomi -to give based on the decision or will of the giver) intentionally or throwing (ballo -to throw or let go of something without concern for where it falls) haphazardly, we are not to completely abandon discernment. Much to the chagrin of liberals who love Matthew 7:1 for all the wrong reasons, Christ is, in this verse, calling people to judge. And based upon that judgment using biblical discernment, He calls for His followers to “not give” and “not throw”.
Further, He identifies the distinction that we should make when sharing the precious truth of God’s word. We should recognize first of all that the truth of scripture is “holy” and that it is as valuable as “pearls”. To be holy is to be set apart and biblical truth is certainly set apart by God as His unique revelation of Himself to mankind. It is the antithesis of human wisdom. The Bible reveals not only the character but the supernatural genius of God. It is also precious and valuable. Without the written, inspired, inerrant word of God each man or woman would have to try to figure God out all by themselves using solely subjective means to do so. We would be like Israel in Judges where everyone did what was right in their own eyes.
Not only is biblical truth distinctive, but we must make distinctions as we share the truth. Not everyone is going to be willing to hear and obey the word of God. Some reject it as being wholly true and therefore believe some parts are truer than others. There are those who simply reject the Bible and its truth outright. Certainly we may not know how someone will respond before we have the opportunity to share with them, but we should take their response into account when deciding to further share God’s word with them. This is true not only with unbelievers but also with believers. Hebrews 5:14 tells us that “But solid food (doctrine) is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses rained to discern good and evil.” If we use discernment in how we present doctrine to believers, how much more carefully should we present biblical truth to unbelievers? We should judge, by their reaction, their receptivity to the truth and determine whether they are “dogs” (vicious, potentially dangerous) or “swine” (profane). Dogs were not at the time that Jesus lived, domesticated pets. They roamed the streets and the wild in packs, carried diseases, and scavenged for food. Swine were the filthiest animals a Jewish person could think of. They represented being unclean. As we share the gospel with folks and we observe their reaction, we should be careful to distinguish between those who have an open animosity toward the gospel and those who do not. We are called, upon making this distinction to not “give what is holy” or “throw pearls” before those who have shown themselves to be hostile to the gospel.
There is a very specific reason for the warning Jesus gives in this verse. We discriminate in this manner to avoid placing ourselves in real danger where it can be avoided. Now, there will be times and are times where sharing the word of God will be dangerous. In China, churches have to meet in secret to avoid being arrested. In fact, Christians all over the world are still martyred in various countries. There are times when you are going to have to choose to obey God rather than men and share your faith. However, to simply do so indiscriminately without an awareness of your audience or surroundings is unwise. For instance, if you are at work and a co-worker mentions that he is gay, it may not be the best idea for you to explain to him that homosexuality is a sin and then call him to repent and trust Christ. I would suspect you would likely be fired for that. There is a time, place and manner to share that truth with him. There may be situations where you would be able to share like that during a casual conversation at work. However, I can imagine few scenarios where a situation like that is going to turn out well. It is far more likely that the co worker will “trample” that truth under his feet and “tear” into you verbally before going and filing a complaint with human resources. Certainly, if you know beforehand someone is going to be strongly opposed to the gospel, you should exercise caution when sharing it.
We have to use our heads if we’re going to honor God in our efforts to evangelize people and share the truth of God’s word. Sometimes as one of the character Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus says, we’re going to have to “take chances, get messy, and make mistakes”. However, we need not check common sense at the door. There are some battles that should be left to the Holy Spirit. It is not our job to convert souls, but to speak the truth in love.