Pearls Before Swine

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

Matthew 7

Those are interesting phrases, verse 6. Do not give dogs what is holy. Do not throw pearls before pigs.

A few years after discovering the Reformation church, the Lutheran church, I am still occasionally amazed at how far off was the teaching on some passages in the prior churches I’ve attended. Sometimes it’s difficult to discover these, as I find it very difficult to shake the old interpretations from my mind as I read passages. Good commentary helps to uncover these, though.

All of my life, I have understood this passage as I was taught, that it is a commandment to reserve the words of Holy Scripture and “pearls of Godly wisdom” for those who respond with the appropriate attitude when confronted with them. On the surface, this seems to be a contradiction with the fact that most FE’s encourage and are pretty energetic about evangelism. Many of the ones with whom I have spent copious amounts of time do not let poor experiences in sharing the Gospel with a person discourage them. I consider it a happy inconsistency with their interpretation of this verse.

John MacArthur sums the interpretation up well in his Study Bible commentary:

Judge not. …There is a righteous kind of judgement  we are supposed to exercise with careful discernment (John 7:24). Censorious, hypocritical, self-righteous, or other kinds of unfair judgement are forbidden;  but in order to fulfill the commands that follow, it is necessary to discern dogs and swine from one’s own brethren.

Do not give what is holy to dogs. This principle is why Jesus Himself did not do miracles for unbelievers (13:58). This is to be done in respect for what is holy, not merely out of contempt for the dogs and swine…

Here, MacArthur finds a defense for his position to keep the sweet words of the Gospel from people in other verses. There are other verses he could use as well. Matthew 10:13-14 comes to mind.

I agreed with this interpretation for years, until this morning when I read the Concordia commentary.

Judge not Jesus is not referring to a decision rendered by a human judge, nor does he mean that Christians should never confront others with God’s Law. He refers to the condemnation of a fellow believer by one who has not first practiced proper self-examination.

[7:6] Jesus may be quoting a proverbial saying, which he applies to his previous teaching. He compares his disciples to “what is holy” and to “pearls.” He warns that hypocritical condemnation of fellow believers  is tantamount to throwing these precious persons out of the fellowship to the dogs and pigs…

For MacArthur, what’s most important is to keep God’s word pure, and that purity is maintained by keeping it from those who refuse it. For Jesus, what’s most important is to preserve the weak and heavy laden: “Do not dismiss these from my church; what about yourself?” (remember the parable of the unforgiving servant).

Here we see that contextually, Concordia’s commentary makes the most sense. Here we see Jesus’ words as further exposition of his  Gospel, not as further threats against a crestfallen people who only want to share the good news.


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