Pearls before swine….what does that really mean if we are to evangelize our world?


This challenging passage is part of the Sermon on the Mount and we need to take that context into consideration as we pray for discernment in application.

When we started this series on discernment, we asked people in the class give us questions and here is one of them:

Jesus said, “Don’t cast your pearls before swine.” On one level I understand this, but on another level, what are pearls? What are swine? How do we discern our “pearls”? How do we determine who is a “swine”? I know we are admonished to look at the “fruit” of people, but some people are “nice” and “good” and “charming” as much as we can see. What do we look for to discern? What kind of fruit? What does it mean to “cast pearls” anyway? Does it mean we are not to share the good news with swine? What is the deeper meaning of Our Lord’s words here?

The following statement is important, too – “…lest they turn and rend you.” Okay, don’t cast valuable items in front of pigs or else, not being satisfied with that (for food??) they come after you and rend you. Does this mean they eat you? I can see how angry swine (obviously plural, or is the plurality important?) could turn on you for not giving them food but instead something they do not value, and hurt you or try to eat you. But how is this an analogy to life? What is going on that Jesus tells us to avoid doing this?

This puzzle for me points to a larger issue of being a firm or stalwart or warrior Christian, that is, not a wishy washy “make nice” person. That we have obligations to discern and stand and turn away and ignore some things. Very clearly, “swine” exist and it seems we are to avoid certain actions with them.

This is certainly an issue of discernment, eh?

It is a great question and the answer requires that we look at a number of issues in Biblical interpretation. Click on either the full-page or notes below to download our exploration of the question.

pearls before swine full sizepearls before swine notes page

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