What did Jesus mean when he said, ““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.”?
In Matthew 7:1 Jesus starts talking about how we judge. On the surface it seems that he is saying we shouldn’t do any judging. But that is certainly not the case because just 5 verses later he is comparing some people to wild dogs and wild pigs. The truth is we all have to be able and willing to judge from what is right and wrong. Jesus’ point in saying that we should be careful about the standards we use to judge people was about the attitude of the heart. That is really what the entire sermon is about – putting God right at the center of our lives and having our attitudes and actions line up with God’s priorities. God doesn’t want his people to be the harsh, judgmental critics of the world. If we live and judge like that we will receive the same judgment or condemnation back on ourselves.
So Jesus holds two seemingly opposite points in tension so that we will find balance in the way we view others and in the way we judge between right and wrong. On one hand he says don’t judge people (7:1). On the other hand he says we are to be discerning of people’s character (7:6). When Jesus says don’t throw your pearls to pigs or give to dogs what is sacred he is saying that we can’t just walk around covering up everything or overlooking all forms of evil. It is important that we are able to call things for what they are. It is a vivid illustration. Someone who never judges, in their mindset of never passing judgment, walks right up to a wild pig and says “Here are some pearls for you!” (a symbol of something holy and pure). The pig tramples them and their pearls into the mud. Jesus is saying to be discerning and wise in how we judge. He is not teaching that all judgments are off limits. You have to allow Jesus to make his own point and the way to do that is to hold these two things (7:1 and 7:6) in tension just as Jesus taught them in tension with one another. When we do that we will come to the balanced approach Jesus is looking for – able to tell right from wrong without developing a judgmental spirit.