Have you ever discussed the Gospel with an atheist? Has another blogger ever attacked you for praising Jesus?
I’ve been in a long conversation, with an avowed atheist. It all started when he commented on my post, “Why What You Believe Matters”. This person is very hostile toward Christians and he is hostile to the Gospel. He writes a blog that condemns Christianity and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In my naivity, I thought I could talk sense into this person.
I mentioned this to my 86 year-old father, and do you know what he said? “Don’t cast your pearls before swine.”
I hadn’t even thought of that! I was only thinking, “How can I help this person? This is so sad.” My heart ached for him.
Although I had heard Matthew 7:6 many times, I looked up the verse in my Bible and started trying to figure out what Jesus meant. After searching this out, I came to the conclusion that Jesus really was saying (in my own words), “This won’t help them. It will only hurt you.”
It was difficult for me to accept this teaching, even if Jesus did say it. I kept looking for a different interpretation. I thought I must be misunderstanding the verse. I kept thinking I needed to say more, pray more.
It took quite a bit of prayer and study to feel confident that I understood Matthew 7:6 correctly. The King James Version says,
“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.”
You have to admit, that’s rather harsh! What does Jesus mean? No matter which translation you read, it clearly says the same thing! I never had a problem with this verse before, but now that it applied to me personally, in real life, it wasn’t easy to accept. The NIV says,
Next, I decided to check commentary from Christian writers I trusted. Here’s what they said:
BibleRef.comTo be called a dog or a pig was a great insult in Jesus’ culture. Still, He does not hesitate to compare those who reject Him as Israel’s Messiah to dogs and pigs. Crucially, though, His purpose is not to degrade anyone. The emphasis is not on other people, but on God’s people. This verse is a warning to Christians: don’t waste time or invite harassment from those who are obviously hostile.
GotQuestions.org In His sermon, Jesus uses dogs and pigs as representative of those who would ridicule, reject, and blaspheme the gospel once it is presented to them. We are not to expose the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have no other purpose than to trample it and return to their own evil ways. Repeatedly sharing the gospel with someone who continually scoffs and ridicules Christ is like casting pearls before swine.
The command not to cast your pearls before swine does not mean we refrain from preaching the gospel. Jesus Himself ate with and taught sinners and tax collectors (Matthew 9:10). In essence, the instruction in Matthew 7:6 is the same that Jesus gave to His apostles when He said, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town” (Matthew 10:14). We are to share the gospel, but, when it becomes apparent that the gospel is not welcome, we are to move on. We are responsible to share the good news; we are not responsible for people’s response to the good news. Pigs don’t appreciate pearls, and some people don’t appreciate what Christ has done for them. Our job is not to force conversions or cram the gospel down people’s throats; there’s no sense in preaching the value of pearls to swine. Jesus’ instruction to His apostles on how to handle rejection was to simply go elsewhere. There are other people who need to hear the gospel, and they are ready to hear it.
John MacArthur: “When people not only reject the gospel, but insist on mocking and reviling it, we are not to waste God’s holy Word and the precious pearls of His truth in a futile and frustrating attempt to win them. We are to leave them to the Lord, trusting that somehow His Spirit can penetrate their hearts-as He apparently did with some of those who at first rejected the preaching of Paul and the other apostles-or leaving them to the just judgment of God.”
It’s not just that you are wasting your time. It is harmful to you. Let’s look at the verse one more time.
“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 turn and tear you to pieces.”
This is exactly what happened. I explained the love of God and the Good News of the Gospel. He denigrated the Bible, slandered Jesus, and called me names. Jesus clearly teaches us how to deal with it. I have cut off discussion with this person and in the future I will not engage with an openly hostile atheist.
If you have been through a similar experience, I hope this look at Matthew 7:6 will help you, as it did me. Have you encountered this in your ministry? What did you do? If you believe I have misinterpreted these words of Jesus, I welcome correction.
“…the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by his letting us have our way in the end, but by his making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly pray what he taught his disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:11-12 NIV
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27 NIV
“Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his wisdom and knowledge and riches! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! 34 For who among us can know the mind of the Lord? Who knows enough to be his counselor and guide?” Romans 11:33-34 TLB