I have always had difficulty with the “pearls before swime” passage in the Gospels.
I have always been a very optimistic person and believe that, even in the apparently most hopeless of cases, a person might turn to truth because of something that you said, even though you may think that it has no impact.
So, when Jesus commands(?) us not to “cast pearls before swine” or not to give that which is holy to “dogs”, because they may either harm you or trample on the pearls, it has always bothered me, I’ll be honest.
If the “dogs” and “swine” are those who seem morally hopeless and hopelessly and even irrredeemably sinful, yet, even if it’s not obvious, there may still be some hope for them in something you might say to them, even then, are we still commanded not to give the good things of our faith to them?
As I understand it, the context of the passage is speaking of rebuke of men for moral failings. So, then, perhaps this is instead saying that we should not rebuke someone who clearly already has no intention of hearing our rebuke but is so concerned with worldly things that such a rebuke has no hope of helping?
Perhaps this is in the context of specific kinds of truth and not necessarily all truth generally. For instance, if you see someone sinning sexually and you rebuke him, knowing full well that he is not going to listen to you because of his wordliness and that he may even do harm to you and the Gospel, then, perhaps we are warned not to continue rebuking him about this matter but to, as it were, simply wash the dust off our feet and move on.
Or, perhaps this refers to those who want to hear something else other than what you are offering. The pig has no use for pearls, only for his slop, so, instead of consuming the pearls, he tramples them under foot, because he has no use for them. The dog given “holy things” (perhaps other than the meat he is used to) will, in anger, turn on the one who gave it to him. Those who are clearly and evidently and even maliciously opposed to a particular truth that you want to give them should not be given it because they truly want nothing to do with it and may even respond in anger toward it. Swine, when pearls are cast before them, do not see them for what they truly are but see fit only to trample them underfoot. They would prefer the slop to which they are accustomed, on which they place much higher value and indeed true value.
The forceful “casting” of pearls before the swine is interesting, as it might imply a “casting down from above” at or in the faces of the swine (in an arrogant way?) holy things on those who are “below”…
I am still a bit confused about this passage and I hope what I say bove at least makes some sense. I hope it is at least a start to understanding this passage.
However, the question arises: Why would anyone even desire to share truth with someone who is so clearly opposed to it? Even if one knows in his heart (or assumes) that it will do no good anyway? Surely Christ is not admonishing those who would do this purely out of right motives or motives of love, who might see still some hope of conversion in a person? Perhaps Jesus even speaks to an element of pride in the preacher who would cast pearls simply to show himself better than the dog or the swine. In this case, both the motivation of the preacher and that of the dog/swine is called into question. So, then, for the one preaching in arrogance, it is better simply to leave the dog/swine alone than to cast pearsl toward them, because of the risks Jesus enumerates. So, maybe this is the key? It is not the dog/swine that is the main issue, but it is that in combination, primarily, with the motivation of the preacher? It is OK to preach to those who may seem even reprobate so long as your own heart is right, and despite the risks. But, if your heart is not right, it is better to simply stop and avoid the risks that might arise later? Perhaps even the attacks of the dogs/swine are motivated in part by the arrogant preacher’s own hypocrisy? Perhaps even the harsh use of “dog” and “swine” here serves as an image of how the arrogantly-minded perceive these people, as (arguably) when Jesus tests the Cyrophonecian woman, calling her a “dog” as would many of the Jews of His day would have likely done?
I just really have an issue with giving up on anyone, just because I know that, in many cases, we misjudge people’s hearts based on this or that. And, even ignorantly (in the faultless sense), we may not know what will or what will not ultimately touch/move people in the right direction, no matter how lost they may seem.
Any help on this would be much appreciated.
Maybe I am utterly on the wrong track with all of the (perhaps even rather innovative) hypotheses of interpretation I have proposed above? Indeed, if anything smacks of “innovation” or of “uncommonality” as far as interpretation goes, that always makes me a little uneasy, even if I am the source of it…