Pearls and Swine
Matthew 7:6
Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast you your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet…

At the first blush of it this reads more like a motto of the scribes than a proverb from the large-hearted Christ. It is quite as important to see what it does not mean as to lay hold of its positive teaching, because we are all tempted to abuse it in order to excuse our narrowness and selfishness.


1. In neglect of the poor. This is the most gross and insulting abuse of the principle which can be thought of. No one would venture to express it in so many words when he was thus misdirecting it. Yet virtually such an application of it is very common. It is thought that any coarse fare will be good enough for the poor; not only coarse food and clothes, but coarse treatment, coarse methods of religion, coarse amusements, and the ministration of coarse men. To bring works of art and good music to "the lower classes" is thought to be wasteful. Refined people are not to spend themselves on the common people. This is Pharisaism without its religion - the pride of the cultivated Roman with the bitterness of the scornful Pharisee.

2. In contempt of the illiterate. The Gnostics reserved their choicest ideas for the inner circle of the initiated. Ignorant people might walk by faith; Gnostics had attained to knowledge. This is not the religion of Christ. He rejoices that God reveals his best truth to babes and sucklings.

3. In despair of the sinful. We are tempted to shrink from speaking of Christ to the very lowest people. It looks like a profanation to set the treasures of the gospel before them. They can hear the Law that condemns their sin; the beautiful thoughts of God's grace in Christ are too good for them. This, too, is unchristian. Christ brought his good tidings to all men, and the first to leap up and grasp it were the publicans, the sinners, and the harlots.

II. THE TRUE APPLICATION OF THE PROVERB. If these obvious uses of it are all contrary to the mind and method of Christ, how does he wish us to use it? Let us look at it on two sides - in regard to men and in regard to truth.

1. In regard to men. Who are the dogs and the swine? Not the poor and the illiterate; not only or always the abandoned and degraded.

(1) The cynical. Cynicism most effectually excludes the gospel. It is not best conquered by being offered the gems of Divine grace. It needs to be made ashamed of itself.

(2) The greedy. Dogs and swine are proverbially gluttonous. We must here think of the former animals not as we know them in England - as man's true friends and companions - but as they are in the East, pariahs of the animal world, surly scavengers of the streets. Low, selfish greed prevents its victims from appreciating Divine truth.

(3) The unclean. The animals named are typical of foulness. Now, we have seen that the gospel is for sinners. But it comes to their better selves. It has no contact with their corrupt imagination. Sensuous pictures of religious experience lead the degraded to defile the very religion of holiness.

2. In regard to truth.

(1) In personal experience. The Christian is not to hang his heart upon his sleeve. There is a spiritual modesty, a decency in religion. We need to be careful how we unveil the choice experience of communion between the soul and its Saviour.

(2) In revealed truth. All men may have all truth, but not at all times and in all ways. We must choose an opportunity. There is a word in season. Some aspects of truth are best for publicity, others for private meditation, though all are for every seeking soul. - W.F.A.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

WEB: "Don't give that which is holy to the dogs, neither throw your pearls before the pigs, lest perhaps they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Christian Economy, and Gospel Frugality
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