Beware of the Dog

According to Jesus, some folks act like dogs and pigs.  He said, give ’em a wide berth:

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.  (Matthew 7:6)

Maybe that doesn’t sound like Jesus to you.  What does He mean?  The first principle in figuring that out is to ask, what has He been talking about?  What is the context of what He said?  In this case, Jesus had just taught us not to condemn others (Matthew 7:1-2) but rather, to approach them to help with compassion and humility, fully aware of our own faults (Matthew 7:3-5).  If this is a continuation of that topic, then He means, realize that there are some people who are not ready or able to receive your help.  Trying to help those people may truly make it worse.

The dogs of Jesus’ day were not domesticated; they were wild and dangerous.  Pigs, too – and they were also considered unclean for the observant Jew.  We’ve all encountered people who, at least for the moment, were acting like dogs and pigs.  The best and most compassionate help, as valuable as it may otherwise be, will have no value to a person in that condition.  Don’t try to force it on him.

When Jesus refers to something sacred or holy, it is important to recognize that things we do in obedience to Him are sacred and holy.  Water to the thirsty, clothes for the needy – these are sacred acts when motivated by an appreciation for Jesus’ teachings about reality and about God.  So too, would be a genuinely compassionate and humble attempt to help someone stuck in destructive behavior.  So too, would be an attempt to explain the amazing truth about Jesus and the wonderful life that awaits those who comprehend it.  But, as sacred as they are, those acts only have value – they only really help – if they are received by the person to whom they are offered.  When that person reacts with hostility and anger, it is time to back off, for your own well being and to preserve the value and effectiveness of what has been offered.  There may be a better time.

As I write, I recall in my own life, the many times I acted as a wild dog and an irreverent pig.  Those who tried to shove “help” down my throat were angrily turned away.  I also humbly recall that God did not give up on me.

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