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What Did Jesus Mean ‘Do Not Cast Your Pearls Before Swine’?

Jesus said to watch out that you do not cast your pearls before swine, because you will lose your treasure. Then, to make matters worse, the pigs will turn on you and trample you. Know who you share your heart with before you share it.

Crosswalk.com Contributor
Feb 10, 2022
What Did Jesus Mean ‘Do Not Cast Your Pearls Before Swine’?

When I was growing up and someone would say something cutting, my grandma would often say, “Consider the source.” Maybe yours offered similar wisdom.

Yet, as a Christian, all I knew to do when I considered that painful source, was to see them washed over with Jesus’ love. For years, my relationships operated out of a very limited perspective that I thought was biblical. And in part, it was.

When I only looked at another as someone Christ dearly loved and treated them as best as I could in a way that reflected His love, I was missing a key element of truth in my relationships.

God can love someone so much that He sent His son to die in their place and it doesn’t necessarily make them safe, trustworthy, reliable, or any of the other necessities for a healthy relationship. It simply makes them loved.

It took me a great many years to even dip my toe in the water of learning to deeply love without giving my whole heart to them.

Learning to love people because Jesus loves them, is important and good, yet Scripture also reminds us that Jesus didn’t entrust His heart to people (John 2:24-25), so there is a way for us to figure out loving people without giving ourselves to them — and perhaps learning this balance will make us more healthy on our end of relationships.

What Did Jesus Mean?

When Jesus said not to cast pearls before swine, He was instructing His children to be wise and discerning about their relationships. In so many words, He was saying, “Consider the source.”

It doesn’t sound “Christian” to call someone a swine. But all that means is someone who doesn’t value something Christ values. All of us, in one way or another, have been or are swine. All of us have in one way or another trampled something Jesus treasures. Most often, we don’t even know we are doing it. But that, is being a bit of a pig, isn’t it now?

I took my son on a field trip last year to a local historic farm. They were new to livestock and delightfully enthusiastic. They knew plants and history but not in livestock care. They had received animals they knew little about to start this exciting adventure.

While I'm new to homesteading, our family took the plunge about five years ago. And, to the irritation of everyone around me, I became a total homestead nerd, geeking out on everything I could because research has always been the best way I knew how to take care of anything, and then blabbing about it as I processed and mentally filed all the information I was reading.

I could tell something was off about how they were managing their animals and the kids. I soon realized they were just new to all of it and probably hadn’t done as much homework as this bookworm had. We have goats and chickens and I’ve considered pigs. But I knew pigs could quickly get over my head.

This historic farm had a new mama goat with her babies in with the pigs. That’s a pretty standard “no” when it comes to livestock care. Pigs like to eat baby goats. It’s a gruesome ordeal.

The farmer, after he could tell we knew our way around goats, asked why the mama goat wasn’t letting the babies nurse more. He was afraid they might lose one of the babies. So, I watched for a while.

The mom was too nervous to let them nurse. She kept moving to keep them away from the pigs. The farmer had noticed the pigs acting differently since the baby goats were born and one of the pigs had even badly bit a student the day earlier. He didn’t know about pigs. You just don’t let your guard down around pigs.

Pigs are smart, amazing animals. But they are also some of the hardest livestock on fencing (for our purposes we might think about relationship boundaries) and they can wreak a ton of damage on the other farm animals (we might consider the damage self-centered people bring to those who love them).

Pigs are so intelligent and wonderful they can be house pets. They can be just as endearing as your dog, but it isn’t their nature to be as loyal. And it could be argued that a herd of pigs is the most damaging animal commonly around, especially if it’s wild pigs/hogs.

Jesus said to watch out that you don’t cast your pearls before swine because you will lose your treasure and then to make matters worse, the pigs will turn on you and trample you.

Know who you share your heart with before you share it. Know who you are speaking with when you open up about scriptural/spiritual matters. If you get a whiff of piggy, watch them and watch yourself. Consider the source.

What Are the Red Flags?

There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies… (Proverbs 6:16-19).

This passage out of Proverbs has often served as a warning for me. It is meant to first instruct us to take an internal inventory of our own souls. But then we are to be wise and take stock of who we spend our time and heart on.

Do we have pride, deceitfulness/lying (mentioned twice!), hands that shed innocent blood, a scheming heart to “get at” or “get back” at someone, or a delight in watching violence or wickedness played out (consider what we watch and read).

All these qualities are in stark contrast to what Christ treasures. All these qualities trample His pearls. If we cherish any of these attitudes inside our hearts, we are being swine. If we are investing our time and our hearts with people like this, we are casting pearls before swine.

Jesus didn’t tell us not to interact with pigs. After all, we might be part of pulling a prodigal son out of the pigpen when we care for those who might fall under this piggy definition. But we aren’t called to give them our treasure. That’s where wisdom comes into play.

We must be wise with what we share with people, learn when we have given more than we should, and have wisdom and discernment to see how, what, and who God is calling us to share our hearts and lives with.

As a pastor’s wife, this has been a unique learning journey for me. People ministered God’s truth to me when I was a pig. When I was covered in mud and filth, they fed me His treasure.

I needed God’s truth and grace so badly, but I’m not sure I always received it in all the best ways. Sometimes, I think I might have trampled their pearls along the way. Redemption is such a messy process.

Why Does This Matter?

So, as I have tried my best to wash feet and serve the Lord’s sheep, I’ve tried to keep my own muddy process in mind. And it’s a hard thing to feel your way through.

We offer help only to realize for one person, it was just the thing they needed, but for another, it was enabling them in their own destruction.

There are no easy, textbook-type answers to let us know exactly who the swine are. It’s only after all is said and done that Jesus separates the wheat from the tares and the goats from the sheep. So, we won’t be able to do this perfectly.

We rest on the wise principles we find in Scripture (like the Proverbs passage) and lean into the Holy Spirit through prayer.

If you are struggling in a relationship where you feel you might be in danger of giving treasures to the wrong people or being trampled, ask the Lord to show you His wisdom for you.

When you read your Bible, ask Him for wisdom and direction. Before you interact with them, ask for His help.

For further reading:

How Do We Show Love to Toxic People?

Why Does the Bible Have to Tell Us to Be Kind to One Another?

How Can I Guard My Heart?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/iprogressman

April Motl is a pastor’s wife, homeschool mom, and women’s ministry director. When she’s not waist-deep in the joys and jobs of motherhood, being a wife, and serving at church, she writes and teaches for women. You can find more encouraging resources from April here and here

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