Pearls Before Swine, And Being Rended
“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matthew 7:6)
Few quotations from the Bible have the resonance to make me heartsick as much as Matthew 7:6 above. My stomach clenches, and my mind flies to grotesque anger (and anger is really disguised hurt) at all my life’s memories of my efforts to do good that have resulted in my own harm. It is perhaps the greatest unfairness in the affairs of human beings to not only to be treated unjustly, but to be treated unjustly because of your generosity and goodness. Indeed, there are few of us with kindness in our hearts who have not given over their goodness to the wrong people, and who have not had those same people turn on them.
The admonition to not cast one’s pearls before swine is not just good advice for leading a more contented life in one’s world, but is a moral imperative not to help evil flourish in the world. If there is a lesson to be learnt that supersedes many other lessons in Christianity, perhaps this is it. So much of the Christian faith teaches us to ‘turn the other cheek’, to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’, and that love is above all else. On the face of it, these seem to contradict Matthew 7:6. But to be a Christian isn’t to succumb to some kind of Eastern mysticism that is typified by passivity. A Taoist’s practice of ‘going with the flow’, while perhaps easy, is little different than an evil person’s overarching goal of ‘getting on’ in her or his secular world. To be a Christian requires thought and moral choices.
We can square the circle somewhat by realizing that while we may ‘love’ our neighbor we love God more, and we love truth and righteousness that we find in our neighbor more. And while we can turn the other cheek to insult and injury, we do so not without the moral conviction that the transgression against us is wrong, but only that we will not compound that wrong by ourselves seeking to injure. Far from Christianity being an “ideology of losers”, as some critics claim, there is far more strength and power in firm choices as to how to deal with evil in Christianity than in many more aggressive secular ‘tough’ philosophies. While we may believe that the “meek shall inherit the earth”, we realize that our meekness is with respect not to the world of men, but to God Himself; only a fool would be anything but meek in the presence of God’s omniscience, omnipotence, and love.
So, in fact, we are obligated not to propagate evil by giving our pearls over to it. Rather, we need to judge, not as God judges souls but as men and women must judge their own behaviors. Our pearls must be cast for purposes that are life-affirming, not life-denying. They are to be cast in the knowledge of God’s will, not by some ideology of feckless benevolence. No one should think that doing God’s will – or what we as fallible beings must understand as God’s will – is easy. We must choose the ‘not-swine’ when casting our pearls; and yes, we glorify God by not allowing good to be ‘rended’.
And that sick feeling I get when I read Matthew 7:6? It is a lesson to me that I need to be more careful to attend to the will of God.
Peter’s Thought for This Day!