Are there people in your life who are not worth the time of day? Some who just don't deserve to be loved, prayed for, given a helping hand?
That is how Christ Jesus' words about throwing one's "pearls before swine" are sometimes interpreted.
According to Matthew, his exact words are: "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." Matthew 7:6, New American Standard Bible
So who or what are the swine?
In the Bible, context means a lot. Jesus' remarks appear in Matthew's rendering of the Sermon on the Mount and is part of a general discussion on not judging others. His basic message is: "Don't judge others, rather work on your own perspective so you can help." And he finishes with the swine reference. Did Jesus suddenly switch gears? Maybe not.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "Jesus' parable of 'the sower' shows the care our Master took not to impart to dull ears and gross hearts the spiritual teachings which dulness and grossness could not accept. Reading the thoughts of the people, he said: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine." (p. 272)
Is the phrase "dull ears and gross hearts" a reference to ignorant or unreceptive neighbors, colleagues, family members and other people? Or is it possible the dull ears, gross hearts, and swine, are actually the mortal thoughts and material conditions that tend to pull our attention away from seeing, loving and helping our fellow man?
By the time Jesus met a certain man from Gadera, the guy had already been subject to a lot of "pearls before swine" treatment. His closest neighbors were swine-herders who had invested a lot in watching this poor man suffer and act out. They were aware of up to a legion (2000) of symptoms of his illness. How difficult it must have been for them to be so invested in the man's difficulties. Ultimately, they they paid a high price for their proximity to his case. (For a full look at that story and its meaning, see "What we can learn from that crazy pig story".)
On the other hand, Jesus didn't suffer at all for helping. He had a different approach. He didn't ask about the problem, didn't get involved with all those symptoms. The contact was short and sweet, really. But effective.
He asked the man his name. Christ Jesus saw him as a man with a name and a spiritual nature to be discerned and loved. Whatever was said, no matter what tale of suffering poured out, he didn't carry on a lengthy discussion with the devils - the symptoms of disease. He cast them out.
Seeing him as the son of God, Jesus helped the man find himself again, clothed and in his right mind. Mary Baker Eddy explained how: "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick." (Science and Health, 476)
Perspective is everything when it comes to helping and healing. This is why Jesus gave the essential teaching to his disciples just before talking about what they should not do with their pearls, "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not 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." (Matthew 7:3-5, New American Standard Bible)
Many who need help don't know much more than that they are suffering. For those who know of a way out, there is always something that can be done. If the way isn't readily seen, we have a log in our eye - a mistaken view of the situation before us - and may well be fooled by the swine costume of symptoms that is hiding the real man. In that case, the need is to deal first with our own perspective in prayer. When we behold the perfect man, the true spiritual nature of man as the reflection of the perfect Mind that is God, we will always know what to do next. Whether we pray, or give a helping hand in some other way, there are always precious pearls we can throw.
There really is no Christian way around it. We must throw down our pearls. Do we cast them before swine and risk their being trampled under a torrent of fear and frenzy? Or shall we place them before the Christ and see the real man as he is? The pure perspective of God's spiritual man, heals.
And every one of your pearls counts.
This post first appeared on this blog on March 13th. It has been edited and updated for this re-post. Things are settling down a bit around here. So, I expect to begin posting some new material in the next few days. It has been fun looking back over the last year and pulling forward some of my favorite archive pieces. Thank you for hanging in there and reading them again!
"I will love, if another hates. I will gain a balance on the side of good, my true being. This alone gives me the forces of God wherewith to overcome all error." (Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, 104)
These immortal words of Mary Baker Eddy rang through to my thought yesterday as I heard a powerful story recounted by Ulrike Prinz, CS, of Hamburg, Germany, in her lecture entitled "A Christian Science Response to Hate and Violence."
I was very moved by what I heard, and I am grateful to have found the source of the story on the internet. At the bottom of this post, you will find hyperlinks to the original book and biographical info on the co-authors.
George Ritchie, PhD
"When the war in Europe ended in May 1945, the 123rd Evac entered Germany with the occupying troops. I was part of a group assigned to a concentration camp near Wuppertal, charged with getting medical help to the newly liberated prisoners, many of them Jews from Holland, France, and eastern Europe. This was the most shattering experience I had yet had; I had been exposed many times by then to sudden death and injury, but to see the effects of slow starvation, to walk through those barracks where thousands of men had died a little bit at a time over a period of years, was a new kind of horror. For many it was an irreversible process: we lost scores each day in spite of all the medicine and food we could rush to them.
"Now I needed my new insight indeed. When the ugliness became too great to handle I did what I had learned to do. I went from one end to the other of that barbed wire enclosure looking into men's faces until I saw looking back at me the face of Christ.
"And that's how I came to know Wild Bill Cody. That wasn't his real name. His real name was seven unpronounceable syllables in Polish, but he had long drooping handlebar mustaches like pictures of the old western hero, so the American soldiers called him Wild Bill. He was one of the inmates of the concentration camp, but obviously he hadn't been there long: his posture was erect, his eyes bright, his energy indefatigable. Since he was fluent in English, French, German and Russian, as well as Polish, he became a kind of unofficial camp translator.
"We came to him with all sorts of problems; the paper work alone was staggering in attempting to relocate people whose families, even whole hometowns, might have disappeared. But though Wild Bill worked fifteen and sixteen hours a day, he showed no signs of weariness. While the rest of us were drooping with fatigue, he seemed to gain strength.
"We have time for this old fellow," he'd say."He's been waiting to see us all day." His compassion for his fellow-prisoners glowed on his face, and it was to this glow that I came when my own spirits were low.
"So I was astonished to learn when Wild Bill's own papers came before us one day, that he had been in Wuppertal since 1939! For six years he had lived on the same starvation diet, slept in the same airless and disease-ridden barracks as everyone else, but without the least physical or mental deterioration.
"Perhaps even more amazing, every group in the camp looked to him as a friend. He was the one to whom quarrels between inmates were brought for arbitration. Only after I'd been at Wuppertal a number of weeks did I realize what a rarity this was in a compound where the different nationalities of prisoners hated each other almost as much as they did the Germans.
As for the Germans, feelings against them ran so high that in some of the camps liberated earlier, former prisoners had seized guns, run into the nearest village and simply shot the first Germans they saw. Part of our instructions were to prevent this kind of thing and again Wild Bill was our greatest asset, reasoning with the different groups, counseling forgiveness.
"It's not easy for some of them to forgive," I commented to him one day as we sat over mugs of tea in the proceeding center. "So many of them have lost members of their families."
"Wild Bill leaned back on the upright chair and sipped at his drink. "We lived in the Jewish section of Warsaw," he began slowly, the first words I had heard him speak about himself.
'My wife, our two daughters, and our three little boys. When the Germans reached our street they lined everyone against a wall and opened up with machine guns. I begged to be allowed to die with my family, but because I spoke German they put me in a work group."
"He paused, perhaps seeing again his wife and children. 'I had to decide right then,' he continued, 'whether to let myself hate the soldiers who had done this. It was an easy decision, really. I was a lawyer. In my practice I had seen too often what hate could do to people's minds and bodies. Hate had just killed the six people who mattered most to me in the world. I decided then that I would spend the rest of my life, whether it was a few days or many years, loving every person I came in contact with.'"
(An excerpt from the book "Return from Tomorrow" by George G. Ritchie with Elizabeth Sherrill, published by Fleming H. Revell, A division of Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI., pgs. 113-116)
Thank you, Ulrike Prinz, for bringing this story out for your audience in Paris.
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_ Most have heard the axiom: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I had heard it but didn’t pay too much attention to it until something happened that made it come alive for me. When I was a teenager, I was invited to a special dance by a young man who belonged to the church where I was a soprano soloist. I didn’t know him very well, but he was nice – and so handsome. So, I accepted the invitation. We arrived at the dance and immediately joined the others on the dance floor. I soon found out that my handsome partner was a terrible dancer!
As I sat on the sidelines during a time out, another young man from the same church made a beeline for me. I thought: “Oh, no. He’s going to ask me to dance!” He was definitely not high on the handsome scale. All I could think of was Ichabod Crane. Sure enough, he asked me. The music started up again, and off we went to dance. Was I in for a surprise! He waltzed me across the floor like I was Ginger Rogers. He was a fabulous dancer and made me feel fabulous, too. At the conclusion of the waltz, I decided he was actually pretty good looking!
I have practiced Christian Science professionally in
some form since 1979.
But my journey with
Christian Science started
in a Sunday school
where as a young child
I was taught the Scriptures and some simple basics
of Jesus' method of
scientific Christian healing.
A significant experience
at the age of twelve
opened my eyes to
the great potential
of this practice.
After impaling my foot
on a nail,
I prayed the way I had learned
in Sunday school.
the pain stopped
and healing began.
By the next morning the wound had disappeared completely.
the great potential
of Christian Science,
there would be no