Do Not Give What Is Holy to Dogs

Sermon on the Mount: Instructions for Life

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6).

Before we can apply Jesus’ proverb, we need to understand the point He was making. In using dogs and swine in His illustration, He was speaking of animals that were both viewed negatively by people in that time (very different, particularly about dogs, from how people today view them). They were discussed in contrast with a “brother” in the prior verses (Matthew 7:3-5).

Jesus specifically commented on the expected behavior of these animals because they were used to represent the behavior that people often exhibit when they are taught the truth. The dogs and swine in Jesus’ proverb are symbolic of people who trample over the truth and viciously attack those who teach it. That which is “holy” refers to the teaching, correction, or help that we might give to others who need to make changes in their lives (cf. Matthew 7:5).

As we apply this proverb, we need to understand Jesus’ underlying point that we cannot treat everyone the same. This may sound shocking for some that Jesus would teach this. But as we look closely at what He said, we can plainly see that this was what He meant. He said we are “not [to] give what is holy to dogs” because we need to give that to others. This is not possible to do if we try to treat everyone the same. We must exercise good judgment if we are to be just.

The sad reality is that not everyone will respond positively to our help that we offer them in their spiritual lives. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he wrote, “So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). Though we might speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), many will not take it that way. They will reject the truth, attack us for “judging” them, question our motives, and hate us despite our efforts to show them the path that leads to life. In our efforts to teach others, a time may come when we will have to “shake the dust off [our] feet” and move on (Matthew 10:14).

Failing to do this deprives others – those who could be receptive to the truth – of the help that we could provide. By continuing to try to teach those who have demonstrated a willful rejection to the truth, we are taking time away from potential opportunities to teach others who might be open to the truth.

Furthermore, we have certain responsibilities that God has given us – family, work, church, etc. If we fail to follow Jesus’ instruction to “not give what is holy to dogs,” we may neglect our other responsibilities. Notice what Jesus said in a similar passage: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:26). In context, He was speaking with a Canaanite woman who had come to Jesus to heal her daughter. He explained to her that He was “sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). He was not going to allow Himself to become distracted from His mission by going off and healing people from all the other nations. In the end, He did heal this woman’s daughter when she demonstrated her great faith (Matthew 15:27-28); but His initial point stands. We cannot neglect the primary responsibilities that God has given us. This of course does not mean that we cannot do more – in many cases we certainly can. But we must not neglect our responsibilities because we fail to exercise good judgment and refuse to move on from those who prove themselves to be “dogs” and “swine.”


The above post is an excerpt from the book, Sermon on the Mount: Instructions for Life. Follow the link to learn more about the book and purchase your copy today!

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