Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dogs, Pigs and Pearls

Don’t judge so that you won’t be judged.
For in the way you judge - you’ll be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother,
‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’
… and behold, the log is in your own eye?

You hypocrite! 
First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Don’t give what is holy to dogs, and don’t throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
Matthew 7.1-6

God, dogs, pigs, brothers, hypocrites, you; specks, logs, sacraments and pearls
… these are the characters and objects in this section of Jesus’ sermon. 
How can we turn this scripture into something to obey without “judging” someone and deciding if he’s a pig, she’s a dog, he’s my brother, or if I’m a hypocrite? 

There’s a difference between being judgmental and being discerning, and this is what we need to understand about Jesus’ teaching.  I’ll take a risk and summarize this section of the SOM in this way: “Cautiously treat people appropriately.” 

In order for us to do what is appropriate, we don’t need to judge, but we do need to be discerning, and in this section of the SOM Jesus gave his disciples an “Intro to discernment,” or “Discernment 101.”  Longer versions of these lessons are found consistently in the bible.  Let me try to explain…. 

People – Problems – Prescriptions

People are different, obviously.  But what we often miss is that different people have different needs, and sometimes two people with the same need can be helped in different ways. 

For example, teaching kids to swim is important for their safety.  But some children are very afraid of the water, while others are foolishly bold.  They both need to have the proper respect but without fear, and they both need to learn to swim … so we teach them differently. 

Parents who have more than one child can tell you a thousand ways in which their kids are different and need different approaches to raising them.  Teachers can tell you that some kids learn visually and others learn by listening. 

Doctors make a great example for us because they have different patients at different ages and with different medical conditions that require different prescriptions.  

So Jesus said some people have specks in their eye, others have logs.  Some people are your brothers, some are pigs. 

For Jesus’ audience there were different kinds of people.  They would divide the whole world into Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews).  Jews (including our Lord) would call gentiles dogs. 
Check it out:
Jesus said [to the Gentile woman],“Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
She answered,
“Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.”
And He said to her,“Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”
(Mark 7:27-29)

It seems pretty harsh, but it’s true.  Jesus came to the Jews, and no one else.  Only after Jesus’ resurrection could Gentiles be allowed to become part of God’s kingdom and one of His children.   There are few cases where Jesus had anything to do with gentiles, and when he did, there was always an extenuating circumstance. 

Not all Jews were the same, either.  Among Jews there were those considered “sinners,” who would have been people who were working for/with the Romans, or were sexually immoral or had other behavior that was frowned upon.  Much like “Christians” in our day and age … if you go to church, you know these people.  They’re not the “good” kids - they may smoke or party or have sex with someone other than their one and only spouse in their whole lifetime.  Other “good” people look down their noses at us sinners, because we are “bad.” 

Then among the Jews there were conservatives and liberals, those who loved to preach and pray in public, and those who showed up for “church” and were good people, but didn't do much else. 

I hope you see a theme

As I pointed out in the previous lesson, love demands that we help each other.  That means we must be discerning – or at least learn to be so.  For our day and age, the different groups are probably obvious to you. 

First, Jesus’ “sacraments to dogs” and “pearls before swine” lines refer to pagans, infidels, non-believers, or whatever you choose to call those who are not Christian.  Like Jesus giving first priority to Jews, so we must give first priority to brothers and sisters.  They get our help – first.  Read carefully what Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia:
Brothers, even if anyone is caught in any trespass (you who are spiritual), restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load.
The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith(Galatians 6:1-10)

This section of Paul’s letter is almost exactly the same as our section of the SOM.  Do good to everyone – especially those in our household.  They come first.  When someone in the household is caught in a sin, we should “restore him gently.”  That’s a command of God through Paul, it’s not an option.  Remember back when we studied forgiveness, grace and mercy?  This is how it works in God’s household (what we call church). 

Outside the household sins are many and vile.  People are dogs and pigs, and they (usually without knowing it) follow their false gods (self, Satan, Mohammed, the Pope, Martyrs, ancestors, “saints,” Joseph Smith, Buddha, etc.).  “What do we have to do with judging outsiders,” asked Paul (1 Corinthians 5.12).

So do we just ignore the lost and let them live like pigs?  No!  But the prescription for their “disease” is different!  They need to “come home” like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), not be yelled at for living with pigs!  They need to be changed from caterpillar to butterfly; not judged for crawling around!

Our "Christian" religious culture has a big problem with this.  Politicians are having an effect on our churches, and using them for their purposes.  They are convincing us that we need to make sure pagans act like Christians ... that they have to obey God’s law about marriage, sex, drugs, etc.  This is wrong. 

Again: this is in direct conflict with the teachings of Jesus!  How dare we call him “Lord,” and then disobey him?  If Jesus were the true Lord of these “Christians,” they would not cast their pearls before swine – they would not insist that non-Christians live to our moral standards, or be judgmental of anyone.  Instead, we would love all, and recognize what that means to each individual.

Not only is this casting pearls before swine, but it is against the practice of the apostles and believers in the bible.  Never did Paul (or Peter or John or anyone in the NT) appeal to Caesar or the senate that they should pass laws about morality.  The walls of baths of their day were covered in graphic XXX porn – but nowhere in the NT are people encouraged to tell Greeks or Romans or anyone else they had to obey God’s law.  Rather, they tried to bring their ministry of reconciliation to the lost gentiles! 

If you know a “Christian” who is judging outsiders, please “restore him with a spirit of gentleness” if possible, and encourage him or her to stop trying to “legislate our morals” onto others.  It only makes it harder for us to be able to reach them with the truth: that God is love. 

Wolves in Sheep’s clothing

Beware of the dogsBeware of the evil workers!  Beware of the false circumcision!  For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:2-3)

In Paul’s letter to the church of Christ in Philippi, he told them to beware of the dogs.  The wording in Greek is just like our signs today that warn us to “beware of dog.”  In this case Paul wasn't talking about gentiles.  He was talking about hyper-religious Jews - men who had appointed themselves as “authorities” on religious matters. 

Just like we have today, they had those judgmental people who I usually refer to as simply: jerks.  (I confess that sometimes I use more colorful terms, which, I confess means I’m judging rather than discerning)  They smile in your face, and then stab you in the back.  They are the famous “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” because although they are dogs or wolves, they don’t look like wolves!  We think they’re the good guys. 

Let me put Paul’s warning differently for us.  If you see a person you believe is a good Christian, maybe even a pastor or elder or deacon … you may be seeing a wolf in disguise.  Stop for a moment and consider the good Christians you know – and you would never suspect of being a wolf in disguise! 

And then … consider Paul’s warning and Jesus’ teaching not to give them your pearls. 

Remember the difference between judgment and discernment?  We aren't trying to identify these pigs just to judge them and then bash them or out them, but rather to protect ourselves and our brothers from them.  Discernment is necessary. 

Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit.” 
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  (Matthew 7:15-21)

Paul wrote that these people are more concerned with earthly, physical things than with spiritual ones:
Let us therefore, as many as are teleios, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
Brothers, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you (and now tell you even weeping) that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior….”  (Philippians 3:15-20)
Here you see the “fruit” of their tree.  These are people more concerned with what you eat or drink physically than your spiritual food.  These people are more concerned with how you vote – than with the kingdom of God.  You know who I mean … the person who is distraught over the “decline of America,” but has done little to strengthen or expand God’s kingdom.  Is this a person who leads the lost to God?  Or … is he mostly concerned with getting the “right” guy in the White House? 

Evil in disguise is something that should concern us all.  If you have “brothers” who are more engaged with the soldiers of the US than with the soldiers of the Kingdom – who care more about US policy than they do with a single person becoming a follower of Jesus – you may be dealing with a disguised wolf.  And if so … you need to remember Paul’s words and “beware the dogs.”  You need to remember Jesus’ teaching that they will turn and tear you to pieces. 

Jesus taught his disciples to do this.  He treated the most religious people the harshest, and the sinners with the greatest gentleness.  He called the religious folks names like hypocrites, false prophets, and blind guides.  But sinners and Samaritans and children and women, he treated with gentleness. 

He never condoned sin, but his prescription for their disease was different! 
And so we must also be hard on sin, but reserve the harsh “chemo therapy” for those who claim to be strong, and be gentle with the repentant sinners, the young, and the fragile. 

After all … haven’t we all been one or the other ourselves from time to time? 
Sometimes I've needed a hug more than a whipping.  Other times I've needed a strong wake-up call.  Aren't we all like that? 

And as we grow we change.  Give a break to young, new disciples, but once a person sets himself up as a teacher … he will certainly receive a stricter judgment from God (James 3.1), so he may need a stronger treatment now. 

When you see someone … be discerning!  Don’t give your pearls to pigs.  If possible, help the pigs to change their nature and become faithful disciples.  If not, then be careful or they will turn and tear you to pieces.    

And … be discerning, but never be judgmental, for we know our Father will judge us by our own standards. 


  • People are Different
  • Problems are Different (in Kind & severity/degree)
  • Prescriptions are Different

To make this teaching simple, try this.  Maybe even write your thoughts down (privately), and use it as a guide for how to help people as your Lord wants you to. 

First, recognize that the world is divided into those who claim to follow Yahweh, and those who don’t.  Specifically, there are those who claim to be Jews and/or Christians.  These are people who at least have access to the book, and believe in the same God. 

Those who are outside of this group (most of the population of the earth) don’t need your judgment or condemnation – they need to get to know our God.  If you meet one of these folks, introduce them to Him.  Not to a church, or beliefs or rules or even the bible … just tell them about God.  Tell them how He created us all, and that He feeds us all, loves us all and cares for us all, whether we’re good or bad to Him!  Tell them how wonderful He is, and tell them about judgment day and eternal salvation.  (See how Paul did this for his particular audience in ancient Athens in Acts 17.22-34)

Those who claim to be Christians and/or Jews can be further divided into those who are committed disciples of Jesus, and those who are not.  Remember: you will know them by their fruit – not their doctrine! 

If they “seek first the kingdom and God’s righteousness,” then their life will show it (fruit):  
  • They will be out loving people and caring for them. 
  • They’ll be the ones who: 1) Go, 2) make disciples, 3) baptize them, and 4) then teach them to obey (Matthew 28.19-20). 
  • They’ll be feeding the hungry, caring for widows and orphans and those in distress (Matthew 25.31-46; James 1.26-27). 

Note what is missing from that list!  Nothing there about church attendance, political affiliation, following rules, or bible knowledge.  Hell will be the eternal home to many “good” church-going bible scholars.  Our Lord said, “You will know them by their fruit;” not their singing, praying or religiousness. 

If a disciple doesn't know the truth about baptism, then teach him.  If the disciple has fallen away, restore him.  If she’s living willfully, help her surrender to God again.  In other words … if a disciple has wandered away … restore the brother or sister (if possible).  Be gentle when it’s needed, and be harsh if that will work.  But love the fallen or broken disciple enough to care for him or her. 

If the person is a Christian or Jew but not living like a committed disciple, then get to know why.  Love the person enough to help him.  Don’t merely judge the person as “uncommitted” or “sinful” or even as a judgmental hypocrite!  Instead, offer them hope for something better than they now have.  If they reject you … move on.  And move on like Paul did: “weeping.”  People who are not obedient, loving, committed disciples … are to be pitied, not judged. How can we not pity the person who goes on “sinning willfully”?  
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.”
And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”
It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
- Hebrews 10:26-31

The world is full of people.  Learn to be discerning and provide the right prescription to the right person at the right time.  Judge no one - - but be discerning!  Give your pearls with wisdom, for there are many pigs, and only a few who will accept our Father’s invitation.  Try to sew your seeds on good earth, not the freeway.  And keep your eyes open for the disguised wolves.  Our enemy is genius, he is mean, and he is very successful. 

Discipline yourselves, be vigilant!  Your adversary (the devil) prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  1 Peter 5:8

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