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.
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".)
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)
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!