|Listen to the Bible|
As Christians, we are all called to share the love of God and the Gospel of Christ with others. This is something we do more in our actions and attitudes than in the words that we speak. But while a great deal is said about the importance of sharing the love of Christ with the world, not as much is said about using discretion in determining when and where to share the deeper gems of doctrinal Truths. We are to share the love of God with everyone. But the the rich gems of doctrine are to be prayerfully shared at the right time and with the right people. Failure to do this is both dangerous and costly to the Cause of Christ.
From our reading today, I would like to focus on Matthew 10:16, which says:
In this warning from Christ, we have a command that seems difficult to obey. Because we're going to be spreading the Light of Truth among spiritual "wolves", we are to be wise as serpents, yet harmless as doves. How do we do this?“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
The Saviour is our Example in everything. He not only gave this injunction in Matthew 10:16, He followed it. So, let's take a moment to consider how Jesus (Yahshua) worked with people.
We know that Christ, Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), always taught people the Truth. But what may be less well known is that Christ didn't just tell everybody everything, equally. Our Saviour exercised discretion and restraint regarding sharing His "pearls" of wisdom. In fact, once the disciples asked Him why He spoke in parables. Jesus (Yahshua) responded that this was because the deeper gems of Truth were meant for His Followers, but not for everyone.
Matthew 13:10-13 "And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speakest Thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand."Why did Christ do this? Why didn't He just lay out the whole Truth for everyone? Actually, there are several reasons. The first is that our Saviour wisely didn't give someone more information than he could bear.
John 16:12 "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now."The story is told of a young preacher who had just graduated from college and was giving his very first sermon in his very first church assignment. As the church was located in a small town in a farming community, it's membership wasn't more than 20 souls.
That first weekend, the newly graduated preacher looked out at his congregation of about 10 people and decided to do his best to impress them. He was sure that if he gave them an in-depth sermon, which was purposely designed to showcase the new pastor's vast theological insights, he would garner more respect and interest from his new parish.
So, undaunted by the low attendance, the young ministered launched into his sermon. He purposely mentioned one doctrinal issue after another, nailing down his theological points with Scripture and then pressing on to the next doctrinal subject. Instead of preaching on one topic in his sermon, the young minister spoke on as many topics and theological points as he could think of.
Needless to say, the sermon ran long - very long indeed. But when he finally left the pulpit following his closing prayer, the young man's felt confident that his sermon would surely have impressed his congregation. Dutifully he stood at the back of the church, preparing to shake each parishioner's hand, as they filed out of the small sanctuary.
The last man to shake the minister's hand was a greying gentleman wearing coveralls.
"Good afternoon, Sir," the young minister enthusiastically shook the man's hand. "How did you like the sermon today?"
The old man dipped his head politely, "It was quite something." Then he paused, "You know, when I go out to feed my cows, I look em over and give em what they need. And if only a few cows come to the feed trough, I don't dump my whole load of hay."
Christ knew that we need to receive Truth in bearable portions. So the first point of discretion is prayerfully knowing how much to say, according to what a listener can bear.
But learning to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves isn't just about heeding the "bearing" principle. It's also about knowing when to be silent. There are times when some people will not be receptive to the Words of Truth. Christ actually has commanded us not to share His gems of Truth with two distinct groups: 1) the Truth-haters, who will be persecutors to the Body of Christ, and destructive to the Truth (whom Scripture calls the "dogs") and 2) those who lack appreciation for Truth choosing to love this world instead (whom Scripture calls "swine"). Giving the gems of Truth to either of these two groups is compared to casting pearls before swine and giving that which is holy to the dogs.
Matthew 7:6 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.
To understand this more fully, let's start by looking at the word "holy". The word "holy" means "sacred" and something which is "consecrated." Jesus (Yahshua) told us to not give that which is "holy" nor our "pearls" to two distinct groups.
Pearls represent something which has great Eternal value.
Diamonds, sapphires, rubies, all can be divided. But pearls, like the Body of Messiah, cannot be divided. If you try to divide a pearl, it is destroyed. On both the inside and the outside, a pearl is shiny and pure and white. And it is of great value to the merchant.
If you give the pearls of Truth to people who are spiritually likened to "dogs", instead of being blessed by the pearls, they turn, attack, and rend you (The word "rend means "break, crack, shatter"). Additionally, if you give the pearls of Truth to people who are spiritually likened to "pigs", they will not see or appreciate the jewels. Instead, they trample (reject with disdain) the pearls under their feet.
Now please don't misunderstand, this Scripture about people acting as spiritual "dogs" or "pigs" isn't about labeling folks or calling them unpleasant names. Any one of us can be in this spiritual condition at any time, if we do not have a love of the Truth. Rather than being a warning to treat people judgmentally, the Saviour is warning us to exercise discretion with our sharing. Sharing the jewels of Truth with those who do not love the Truth, is dangerous and destructive.
Dogs and pigs are not impressed with jewels. If we think we are doing the swine a favor by throwing pearls to them, we do not understand their true nature. Dogs and pigs only have interest in jewels if they assume the pearls will satisfy their natural appetites. But, once they realize that the jewels do not gratify their appetites, they trample the jewels we gave them and may even turn to attack us.
But if we're going to be able to be wise as serpent and harmless as doves, demonstrated by not casting our pearls before swine or giving the holy to the dogs, we'll need to be able to discern a "dog" mindset in someone and a "swine" mindset.
What are the spiritual characteristics of the "dog" mindset?
- A spiritual "dog" is the mental condition of someone who is unsaved - Revelation 22:14-15
- A spiritual "dog" is someone who enjoys doing evil - Philippians 3:2
- A spiritual "dog" is someone who commits spiritual whoredoms. Spiritual whoredom is idolatry - Deuteronomy 23:17-18
- A spiritual "dog" is someone who persecutes the people of God - 2 Kings 8:12-13
- Spiritual "dogs" will not stop at persecution only. They are motivated to kill the followers of Christ - Psalm 22:16, Psalm 22:20
Not only are spiritual "dogs" cruel persecutors, they are also spiritually blind, failing to overcome sin, and greedy for personal gain - Isaiah 56:10-11, Proverbs 26:11
- Dogs are a symbol of those who do not choose God's path of Holiness - Exodus 22:31
Dogs are a symbol of those who reject God’s Commandments - Revelation 22:14-15
- A spiritual "pig" is the mental condition of foolishness. It is a lack of appreciation for Truth and a lack of desire or value of it.
- A spiritual "pig" has no discretion. In this unrepentant heart-condition, it is impossible for them to have a love of the Truth - Proverbs 11:22, 2 Thessalonians 2:10.
- After a spiritual "pig" has been forgiven and cleansed, he/she returns to the mire of his/her past sins - 2 Peter 2:22
Matthew 7:6 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.Specifically, Christ warned that spiritual swine will "trample" the pearls of Truth under their feet. What does this mean?
TRAMPLE - G2662 - katapateō
“to trample down; figuratively to reject with disdain: - trample, tread (down, underfoot).
To "trample" the pearls of Truth means to "reject" the Truth "with disdain".
Additionally, Christ warned that spiritual dogs will "turn again" and "rend you".
TURN AGAIN - G4762 -strephō
“to twist, that is, turn quite around or reverse (literally or figuratively): - convert, turn (again, back again, self, self about).”
REND YOU - G4486 - rhēgnumi
“to “break”, “wreck” or “crack”, that is, (especially) to sunder (by separation of the parts… a shattering to minute fragments; but not a reduction to …- break (forth), burst, rend, tear.”
To "turn again" is to appear to "convert" to the Truth, but then to "turn back again" to the old ways. Then the spiritual "dog" becomes a persecutor who attacks you, the Cause of Truth, and the Body of Christ.
God never meant for His people to just scatter the pearls of Truth without discretion. We are to pray for guidance about what to share, when to share it, and with whom.
Matthew 10:16, says:
Knowing this, our Saviour spoke in parables. The pearls of the Kingdom were never meant for spiritual "swine" to trample or "dogs" to destroy. This is why it is necessary to pray for the discretion to know when to speak and when to be silent:“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
Psalm 141:3 "Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips."
Amos 5:13 "Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time."
It is only through the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we may have the discernment to know what to say and how much to share
Proverbs 9:6-8 "Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding. He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning."
Additionally, it is all too easy to enter into arguments and debates with people. But we are counseled not to do this.
Jesus Christ (Yahshua) interacted with the wicked "dogs" and foolish "swine" of His day. He spoke to them in parables and did not reveal the pearls of wisdom hidden in the parables.2 Timothy 2:23-26 "But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will."
Paul, following Christ’s Example, gave the Truth to the hearers who were ready to receive. To one group he said (Acts 28:26-27): "Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with [their] eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them."
The treasures of God’s Truth are precious to the believer, but they cannot be understood by those who reject God’s Word and Law, and desire to continue in sin. If these gems are cast before hard-hearted or foolish hearers, they will be misunderstood, misrepresented, and reviled. And the one who shared the gems may even become the object of needless persecution as a result.
When we have the opportunity to share Truth with someone, discretion requires that we first pray to discern the condition of the hearer’s heart. We are never to be so excited about the Truth that we carelessly cast it before any and all. First, we need to consider the audience. We need to be eager to listen to the needs and problems of our hearers rather than trying to thump them over the head with truths that they are not ready to hear or able to receive. This is what it means to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves".