DON'T SPEAK TO HOGS AND DOGS
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.
Some would say we need to evangelize and correct at every opportunity. Jesus has a different philosophy of ministry though. He does not want us to speak when our words will not be welcome.
Those of you who have been with us for the last several weeks will know that we’ve been doing a little mini series on judging. We’ve been going through the Sermon on the Mount. And here, at the opening of chapter 7, Jesus has taken some time to deal with the whole notion of judging one another.
Well, this morning we are coming to the end of this little series. But as we do so, it’s important to really grasp what Jesus says in this verse. Because our passage today may raise some eyebrows. Jesus says something here that a lot of people might not agree with.
You see, Jesus is telling us that there are some occasions that we ought to remain silent. There are certain people with whom we should not share the gospel.
Now that might be a shock to some people’s ears. I would bet if you were raised in a certain home or church, that might sound like blasphemy. That might be a cardinal sin to even think.
For instance, in a lot of evangelical circles, the emphasis is on sharing the gospel at all costs. Being a witness for Christ, they would say, is the whole reason why we are on this planet. Maybe if you grew up in a fundamentalist church that was drilled into your head. “There are people out there who need to be saved,” they would say. “There are people out there who are not only on the highway to hell, but they are in the passing lane with their foot on the throttle. And they are speeding right into the fiery pits of eternal damnation. And their only hope of eternal life is you. So you need to get out there and spread the gospel to as many people as you possibly can.”
So they would promote what we might call and indiscriminate ministry. But I would like to suggest to you that that is not the case. I would like to say that Jesus does not have that as his philosophy of ministry. He does not want us to be like that. I hope that by the end of today you understand that Jesus tells us that we are (most certainly) to have a discriminating ministry. And, while there is a time to speak, there is also a time to be silent.
When it comes to the dissemination of God’s word, yes, it is true: we ought to have a great fervor for it. We should be zealous to bring the truth of Scripture to our friends and neighbors. We ought to desire and seek opportunities to teach the law of God and preach the gospel of his saving grace. But that zeal should not make us dumb. Our enthusiasm should not make us undiscerning.
That’s what Jesus means when he talks about the hogs and the dogs. As citizens of his kingdom, we must remember that the witness that our Lord sometimes desires is no witness at all.
And we’ll understand this best when we think about how precious his Word is, how pernicious his adversaries can be, how proper his wisdom remains.
We must have a discerning ministry. I would like to argue that Jesus wants us to be a little choosy about our attempts to correct people or share the gospel. And I think we will get a little handle on that when we remember how precious His Word is.
I. How precious God’s Word is
Listen to the words of Jesus again. And I want you to listen to how he describes the ministry of the word of God. He says, “Do not give to dogs what is holy and do not cast your pearls before pigs.”
You remember he’s been talking about judging. He’s told us not to be censorious in our judging. He’s told us that we need to judge ourselves before we correct someone else.
Now he wants us to judge our words. When we go to correct someone or seek to share the gospel with them, he says you are to think of those words as being sacrosanct. They are holy. Since we are speaking about God’s holy word, they are the most sacred words you could ever utter. And so, when we speak about the things of the lord and seek to share the truth of God’s word, we need to see them as pearls. They are the most valuable words that could ever pass through your lips.
We need to recognize that our conversations with people regarding the things of the Lord have a certain weight. They are not like any of our other conversations.
You may get very excited about sharing a certain recipe with the ladies or you might chat about the weather, but those conversations are not on par with a conversation you may have with your child when you pull them aside and say, “Hey, I want to talk to you about the way you’ve been speaking to your mother.” The significance of that conversation just took things to a whole new level. You just invoked the holy law of God. That conversation just moved out of the area of the common and into the realm of divine.
And the worth of that conversation takes on a different value.
This is why Scripture tells us that a wise man welcomes correction. A wise man will listen to those who instruct him. A wise man recognizes that Biblical wisdom is more precious than rubies. It is to be desire more than gold. And it is worthy of our highest esteem. It is to be received like a precious pearl.
You young people might get annoyed at your parents when they try to talk to you and give you some guidance. You’re going to think, “O boy, here comes another lecture.” And you’ll want to huff at it. But you know what you are doing at that moment. You are thinking that their words have no worth whatsoever. If you don’t pay attention and look at their admonitions in that kind of way, it is like taking a pearl and chucking it out the window.
I hope we don’t do that. I hope that we regard the ministry of the word, in whatever form it comes, as possessing an infinite value and we are ready to esteem it as holy. For that its real character.
That is the way we are to regard it. And if we do see it in this way, we will recognize that we should use some discretion in the way we distribute it. This is why I say that the ministry of God’s word should not be indiscriminate. We ought to take good care and not entrust this precious thing to just anybody.
Which brings us to our second point. Now that we understand how precious God’s word is, we need to think about who it is we should share it with. And I’ll say again, it is not everyone. Some people are so wicked and so vile that they have disqualified themselves from hearing God’s Word.
Now, that might sound wrong to you. That might go against everything you’ve been taught. But I want us to think about what Jesus says here about how pernicious God’s enemies can be.
II. How pernicious God’s enemies can be
Look again at verse 6 and notice what Jesus says. He says, “Do not give to dogs what is holy and do not throw your pearls before pigs.”
When Jesus uses the words dogs and pigs, he is talking about people who, as John Gill says, “are notoriously vile; people who are purposefully blasphemous, people who are scandalous, and given to violence.”
Now I am not saying that there are people who are too sinful to be saved. That is not the case at all. God’s grace is able to save the chief of sinners. There is no sinner that is too far gone and cannot be recouped by the boundless blood of Jesus. The work of Christ’s death and resurrection is sufficient to save the worst of sinners. There is no doubt about that.
And neither am I saying that people have to be good enough to hear the gospel. We know that the gospel is for those who are not good enough.
That being said, we should recognize that this does not mean that we present the gospel in every given circumstance. We should only teach and correct when there is prospects of them really listening. When they are curious to know and really consider the things that we say, that’s when we speak.
When people are acting like dogs and pigs, we need to use wisdom. And wisdom’s best answer at that moment is to hold our tongues.
Now, we remember what a dog and a pig are. In Jesus’ day a dog was not the cute little pet that have in your home. A dog was typically a wild creature; a scavenger who would raid your house and maybe even bit at your children, looking for scraps of food to survive on.
And a pig was considered an unclean animal. It was detestable according to the Jewish people. That is why when the Temple was desecrated by Antiochus the Great, he sacrificed a pig on the alter. It was a reprehensible act to the Jews.
And so the dog and the pig represent those who are hostile to the faith. The signify people who have no regard for correction because they are dead set on pursuing their own intentions. Like a dog, they can be aggressive when it comes to the things of the Lord. Like a pig, they love to indulge in the filth of sin. And it would be utterly preposterous to think that they would be willing to listen to anything you have to say.
Now, I recognize that there may be some people who still think that this is heretical. Even though this is clearly what Jesus is saying here, there are still people who like to think that it is there duty to correct every sinner and pass out a tract to every single person that passes them by on the street. So I want to cross reference this with some other illustrations and Scriptures.
Let’s simply think in terms of the Lord’s Table. We recognize that the Communion table is a very sacred thing. 1 Corinthians tells us that the Table of our Lord is a means by which we experience communion with the Lord. And that is why we don’t let just any old person come up here and partake. From time to time you will even hear me say, “If you are living in unrepentant sin or have not yet professed faith in Christ, you should not participate in this ritual.” And if someone were living in sin, we as elders might put them under discipline and bar them from table fellowship.
All of that is simply because we recognize the sanctity of this part of the service. And it would not be right for someone who is acting in a pig-like fashion to handle these sacred elements.
We find similar things in the book of Proverbs. The Book of Proverbs contrasts the wise man and the foolish man. The foolish man is even compared to dogs and pigs at times. As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.
And from time to time you’ll hear the proverbs talk about how you shouldn’t talk to a fool. For instance, Proverbs 9:11 says, “Do not rebuke a mocker, or he will hate you.” The Wise man knows, in other words, that there are certain people who you shouldn’t bother correcting. They’re not going to listen to you. Worse yet, they will hate you for having had the conversation.
- Proverbs 23:9 - Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.
- Proverbs 29:9 - If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.
What does the book of Proverbs say? It says that it’s best to hold your breath. Don’t waste your words on a fool. If he’s not going to welcome wisdom-- if he is someone who is obstinate and inflated with pride, just steer clear. It’s best not to engage him. As a matter of fact, it is a trait of wisdom not to engage him.
But the Book of Proverbs is not the only place you see this. You see it in other places in Jesus’ life. For instance, do you remember that time when Jesus sent out his disciples. He said, go into all the towns and villages of Israel and preach the gospel. And he said, if they welcome you, stay with them. If they don’t, then leave. As you leave you are supposed to shake off the dust from your feet. That was his way of saying, “Don’t bother with the fools. Don’t get caught up with the dogs.” As a matter of fact, Jews would shake off the dust of their feet after walking through Gentile lands. That’s where that came from. They thought Gentiles so evil and unclean that they didn’t even want their dirt on their feet. And Jesus uses that. He basically says, “If anyone doesn’t receive you, they are a Gentile.” Don’t try to force it. You should regard them as being utterly opposed to God and just walk away.
Jesus did this himself too. Martyn Lloyd-Jones gives the illustration of Jesus on trial. When he was examined by Pilate, Jesus spoke freely and answered Pilate’s questions. Pilate was interested in knowing the truth. But when Jesus was questioned by Herod, Jesus didn’t say anything. He remained silent. He knew Herod. Herod didn’t want to know and learn. Herod had a blasphemous spirit; it was one of vain curiosity. He just wanted to see Jesus do tricks. Jesus wouldn’t give his pearls away in that circumstance.
Those are just a few illustrations. There are many more that we could look at. But as it stands, you don’t fool around with a fool in his folly. The word of God is precious and you don’t just go tossing it to people who have a rebellious spirit and no inclination to truly give adequate consideration to the things of the Lord.
And this brings us then to our third point. We’ve seen how precious God’s word is and how pernicious God’s enemies can be. But I want you to think about how proper God’s wisdom is
III. How proper God’s wisdom is
Now, there are a couple points I’d like to make in regards to this. I want you to understand that God is not only commanding this, but he’s commanding it because it is the wisest course of action we could possibly take. So I want to provide a list of reasons, and maybe even help you to see how practical this really is.
A. We need to think in terms of safety
Look at our passage. Jesus says don’t throw your pearls to pigs, don’t give holy things to dogs because, if you do, they might turn and attack you.
What’s Jesus saying? He’s saying that he doesn’t want you to get into a tangle with a rabid dog. Those who are hostile to the gospel will likely end up being hostile at you. And Jesus doesn’t want you to get yelled at. He certainly doesn’t want you to get into an unnecessary fight and maybe even get beat up for it.
There’s a lot of persecution that can happen. When you have to make a stand for righteousness and the world turns against you, there’s a time to die. There are definitely hills to die on when it comes to the faith. But we don’t need to jump into the line of fire when it isn’t necessary.
And this is one of those times. This is a way we can avoid a lot of conflict.
But not only can we think in terms of safety, we can also think in terms of blasphemy
B. We need to think about blasphemy.
You’ll notice what else Jesus says there. If you give dogs what is holy, they will not only attack you, but they will trample them under foot.”
To trample it under foot means to treat it with utter disregard. Maybe even treat it with disdain and ridicule. How many times have you seen an unbeliever mock Christianity? They will take that which is holy and treat it in the most blasphemous manner.
For instance, maybe you’ve heard of the Alexamenos Graffiti. It is perhaps the earliest depiction of Christ. It was found on a wall in a Roman schoolhouse. It is a crudely drawn picture of a little boy with a hand raised reverently in adoration towards a cross. On that cross is the figure of a man, but with one slight modification. The head is the head of a donkey and not of a man. And inscribed around the picture are the words, “Alexamenos worships his god.”
What you have there is a display of utter disdain for the things of the Lord. And it is blasphemous in the highest order. It is a trampling of the most sacred truths we know.
Now, we can’t prevent people from doing blasphemous things like this. But we can cut down the opportunities. If we try pushing the truth where it is obviously not welcome, then we might very well be pushing the pearl right into the street where it will be trampled.
Thirdly, as we think about God’s wisdom, we need to think in terms of efficiency.
C. We need to think about kingdom efficiency.
Every one of you who is a business man or maybe even if you are just running your household like a housewife, you will typically seek to invest your time and energy in a way that will maximize your efforts. You will want to get the most out of your energy or your money and you will manage all of that so that it is the most productive.
If you are in the business world, you think in terms of your ROI (return on investment). You don’t dump a bunch of money and resources into something that is not going to benefit your company, are you?
There’s a sense in which Jesus has this same sort of plan . We are the means by which he is advancing his kingdom. We are the tools he uses to preserve righteousness in this world. And Jesus wants to put his resources to the best possible use. To put it bluntly, Jesus doesn’t want to invest in dead ends. He doesn’t want us wasting our time and energy on conversations that have absolutely no possibility of being productive for his purposes in this world.
So don’t try to force the conversation where it isn’t wanted. Devote your time and energy in places where you have some promise of fruitfulness. The Lord wants to focus his people on what would be the most efficient (proficient) means for extending and building up his kingdom.
You have the issues of personal safety, needless blasphemy, and kingdom efficiency. Add to that the idea of sin’s penalty
D. We need to think in terms of sin’s penalty
Let’s face it, if a person is wicked, they will receive God’s due reward for their actions. And the Scripture tells us that if people plug their ears and rebel against God’s Word, he punishes them by taking his word away.
Think about how the book of 1 Samuel opens. 1 Samuel is right after the time of the Judges. During this time the people of God had turned a deaf ear to the word of God. They no longer listened to it. So what did God do? He was quiet. And 1 Samuel tells us that in those days the “word of God was rare.”
Similarly, Amos speaks a hard word against the people of his day in the 8th chapter of his prophecy. Because the people were rebellious Amos says, “Behold, the days come, said the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD.”
So, if someone is not open to listening and they have a heart that is vehemently opposed to w have to say, then you should recognize that your silence may speak volumes. As you hold your peace, you are at that moment becoming an instrument of God’s curse to this person.
And you needn’t feel guilty about that. You might weep for them, but you can also take some degree of satisfaction in knowing that God has used you. You are not useless because you didn’t get to correct them or evangelize to them. You are just as useful in that moment as if you had evangelized them. As you speak to people who will listen, you are a means of grace. But as you refrain from speaking, you are just as useful because you are a means of judgment against them. God is still using you. He’s using you in the midst of your silence. And he is effecting his purposes in this world through your silence.
There’s one more thing we may need to keep in mind. We can see how proper God’s wisdom is if we think in terms of future opportunities.
One pastor I heard said that we need to think more in terms of starting conversations, not ending them.
Think about this when it comes to Christmas dinner. Christmas time rolls around and you have to get together with the family. Sometimes that’s difficult because they don’t share the same worldview that we do. And we might think that we have to have a spiritual talk. And they may have made it clear to us in the past that that’s not their thing and they don’t want to have anything to do with it. Now, we can try and force the conversation. But what’s going to happen? We’re probably going to turn them off. They will get mad, they will trample things under their feet, and they’ll probably not want to do Christmas dinner with us again.
Wouldn’t it be better if we lived a righteous life before them and showed them the same kind of love and grace that God has shown us? And maybe, like that 1 Peter 3 woman who tries to win her husband without a word, a couple years down the road something happens that opens the conversation in a more natural way. Maybe they lose a loved one or have some other problem in their life.
In that moment, if you’ve gone head to head with them, in the past, do you think they will come to you? But if you’ve shown them love and grace, don’t you have a better chance?
Sometimes we have to look at the long term picture. God is in charge of history. God may open up their hearts at a different time. And right now might not be that time. So again, you have to think about starting conversations, not ending them. It’s about making way for future opportunities, not necessarily about jumping at this current opportunity.
Judge our judging. Judge ourselves. Judge our words and the whether or not we should speak at this moment. Since God’s word is precious, we want to protect it. Some people won’t appreciate it or recognize how valuable it is. And in those moments, we should refrain from speaking. It is a time to remain silent.