September 12, 2014

Jesus, Judgment, and the Church: Part 5 of 5

Didn’t Jesus say to “judge not”? This is Part 5 of a 5-part series in which UMAction Director John Lomperis examines the very important, but so widely misunderstood, teaching of Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:1-6.


As much as people love to cite Jesus as somehow teaching against judgment, people often do not seem aware of how the key passage (Matthew 7:1-6) ends with this verse: “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

Matthew’s audience members were religious Jews who may have heard the phrase “holy things” of verse 6 as referring to the sort of holy objects and sacrifices that were set apart for the sacred rituals in the Jerusalem Temple. It would be hard to imagine something more horrifying for such an audience than taking such holy things and throwing them down on the ground to be attacked by dirty, disease-ridden, ceremonially unclean, and completely unappreciative scavenger dogs.

Meanwhile pearls were very costly jewels, which also happened to be similar in shape and size to the grains that unclean pigs ate. So if you dropped pearls of great price before some pigs, they would soon discover that these this was not the food they expected. So then, angry, they would leave the pearls and trample them as they rushed at you to tear you to pieces with their tusks, as the dogs would do with their teeth.

Commentary after commentary agrees: the “holy things” and the pearls are the great things of Christianity, especially the great teachings of the Gospel, while the dogs and swine are actually human beings who are stubbornly unreceptive.

Wait a second, right after talking about not judging others, Jesus is telling us to judge that some people are like swine or dogs??

Yes, that’s what he said. Which again demonstrates how poorly our culture understands this teaching of Jesus.

But does this in any way invalidate what I’ve written so far in this series. I don’t think so. Stay with me.

Christians need to beware of casting our pearls before swine.

Sometimes we really do. There are times when it would simply not be wise to try talking about Jesus to people who are obviously not interested. For example, if someone is drunk or high, that’s probably not the best time. Scripture tells of instances of Jesus and Paul moving on from preaching to people who had made clear that they were close-minded against the Gospel.

Beyond just the Gospel message, there are other holy things of Christianity, such as certain ways Christians are supposed to converse with or relate to each other, which would also be unwise to do with people outside of the body of Christ.

For example, some people have an accountability group, which by the way is a great spiritual practice. The idea is a few close friends of the same gender meet regularly to pray for each other, bear each other’s burdens, and confidentially and very openly share your respective personal struggles with sin and pursuits of holiness. In such groups, it would generally not be a good idea to invite a non-Christian, whose life is oriented in a completely different direction, to join.

But we also need to be very careful about being too quick to use this verse to completely dismiss people as dogs or swine. For probably all of us who became Christians in our teen years or later, we can remember times when we ourselves were dogs or swine, pridefully unreceptive to the Gospel.

In His own ministry, Jesus reached out to folk whose sin was especially noticeable – prostitutes, and even corrupt and selfish sell-outs who worked for the pagan, Roman occupiers. He did NOT treat those people like dogs or swine. Those church girls at that coffee shop I mentioned in Part 1 made a big, un-Christ-like mistake when, based on the former stripper’s appearance, they apparently judged her as unworthy of their time.

We should remember that all of us, at times, need to contend against passions that make us have not much more respect for the holy things of God than a dog or a pig would. And if someone is very unreceptive to the Gospel at one point in time, this does not mean that they would never be receptive in another time or context.

For a proper foundation for moral judgment within the church, we Christians need a renewed understanding of the of the ugly depths from which we have been saved, so that we may be cured of any sinful, prideful, arrogant views of ourselves as better than other people. We need a renewed commitment to seeking the holiness God wants for His adopted children, and “without which no one will see the Lord.”  And we need divine wisdom to discern how and when to share the things of God with those in our lives who are not Christian.

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