Q: What Did Jesus Mean in Matthew 7:6 When He Said, “Don’t Give to the Dogs What is Holy”?

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.

The context is important here; read Matthew 7:1-6. Jesus is explaining how not to be like the Pharisees. The Pharisees arrogantly went around pointing out everything people did wrong. Yeah, they were the life of the party, as you can imagine.

Well, Jesus was teaching that we shouldn’t be like that. Jesus does not say we should never judge others; that would be ludicrous. When someone murders, we must step in and say “hey, that is wrong.” It’s not that we shouldn’t judge, but that we shouldn’t judge like the Pharisees did, arrogantly just to exult themselves over other people. When we judge, it should be because we love the other person and want what is best for them. Also, we need to make sure we are living a pure life ourselves before we think we can help someone else. Make sure the plank is out of our own eye before we try to help our brother take out the speck in his. To do otherwise is the hypocrisy that was being practiced by the Pharisees.

So it isn’t that we’re not to judge; Jesus is just teaching that we’re not to judge like the Pharisees do. Alright, it is in that context that this strange comment is made about throwing your pearls before swine. It would seem that Jesus is still talking about the judgment/advice/help that we are to give our brother when he is struggling (after we remove our plank of course). If that is the case, then it seems like He is saying that when seeking to help someone else, that we be careful to only do what would be appreciated and beneficial. Dogs and pigs were despised and detested in those days. So, the idea is that we shouldn’t be trying to help people who are just going to trample our advice and tear us apart.

This is definitely a judgment call and would have to be done on a case-by-case basis with tons of prayer and relying on guidance by the Holy Spirit. I mean, we don’t know for sure who will reject our advice and who will accept it. We should not hold back the gospel because we think a certain person won’t accept it. Again, this is a tough call, but I can clearly think of situations where, when I began trying to share the truth in love, the person vehemently didn’t want to listen. I mean, I could have just tried to yell louder than them, I suppose, and belt out John 3:16 at the top of my lungs, but it seemed obvious to me that they weren’t being receptive to what I had to say in the slightest, and so I let it go. See Acts 13:44-49 for an example of Paul doing this very thing. 

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