Song: You Are Everything
Artist: Seeker & Servant
6 “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. (ESV) Matthew 7:6
At the heart of this pithy command is a foundational truth: the gospel of Jesus is precious. Something to be treasured. Valuable. Sacred. It’s really good news. Pearls.
But, not everyone will receive it as such; some, in fact, will actively devalue it. In those moments, given its precious nature, Jesus says use caution. Be discerning. Or, as one translation puts it, Don’t be flip with the sacred. Don’t go willy-nilly throwing around the rich truths of the Gospel.
It’s similar to something Jesus tells his disciples a bit later. When sending them out, he reminds them that not everyone will respond the same way to their message. Some will accept it, others will reject it. And when that moment of rejection comes, he tells them to shake the dust of that place from their feet and move on.
What’s Jesus’ warning? Use discernment.
Which brings us to piety.
In the immediate context, Jesus has just warned against being judgmental. The flip side is that one runs the risk of embracing a wishy-washy faith that refuses to make any distinctions at all between right and wrong.
But, just when we’re tempted to play it soft with the truth, we bump into the command don’t be flip with the sacred. As disciples, we’re not to be judgmental, but neither are we to be indiscriminate.
Then there’s the even broader context, where this call for discernment is nestled tightly within an emphasis on love for enemies and righteous living.
And one quality of the truly righteous life – or piety – is discernment.
Not pious judgmentalism. The righteous life does not dismiss all gospel naysayers as dogs and pigs. It’s discerning. The command is not an excuse to give up my Christian witness. On the contrary, the righteous life, says Jesus, is marked by an ability to discern when to be patiently persistent in my witness to the gospel…and when to shake the dust.
This is just like Jesus. He rarely lets us off the hook with some simple, easy-to-follow formula that applies in all circumstances. Instead, he says follow me…and learn how to discern.