Pigs and Pearls

Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6  HCSB)

I love this verse. It has been a reminder to me for many years that I need to be careful with whom I share the things in my life that are important. Let me give you an example. I used to go visit my family. I served in ministry, on staff of a small church plant. I was married, and was going to an Evangelical graduate school.  I was content with the work God had given me to do. But my family didn’t believe in a life lived in whole-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ. When I would go home on holidays to share my joys I was met with criticism and rejection.  I should divorce my husband (they didn’t like him, and they had some good reasons for that). I should get a ‘real” job. I should lose weight. If there were anything they could find fault with in my life, they did.

Eventually a younger, fellow counseling student that I was meeting with, brought me to this verse. I needed to stop casting my pearls before people who would only trample them. We saw God move in our church in amazing ways. It was a time of significant personal and spiritual growth for me. My family however would never be able to appreciate or celebrate those things because they were “holy treasures” to me. My “pearls.”  My husband would laugh as I would go home to visit family (an hour drive) and repeat to myself: “My family are pigs. My parents are swine.”

Not very Christian, huh? I laugh now, but I was dead serious then. See, I really desired and needed their approval and acceptance as it has always been withheld. It became clear that living the life that God had called me to would never give me that kind of love and acceptance with my family. I could “want” it  but not “need” it. Easier said than lived out. So I had to learn that when I went home, I did not share my heart or my dreams or my life with my family. I listened and asked questions.  Over the years of doing this I have felt more and more like a foreigner visiting a land where I do not know the language. I do not feel a part of my family because they cannot accept or approve of my choices in life.  Persevere in a difficult marriage?  Unheard of –just get a divorce.  Stay at home with children or even home school them (which I did for a few years). I should be using my Master’s degree!

Today I revisited this verse when I spent time meditating on God’s Word and I realized that the context of this verse puts a little bit of a different spin on its meaning.  Jesus is giving the Sermon on the Mount and cautions about judging others without first looking at the sin in our own life. Right after that comes this verse. I sat there thinking about it, perplexed, because I struggled to figure out the connection based on the way I had been applying it in my life.  Finally I grabbed “The Bible Knowledge Commentary” off my bookshelf and looked it up and on page 33 it says this:

“. . . when seeking to help another, one must exercise care to do what would be appreciated and beneficial. One should never entrust holy things (what is sacred) to unholy people or throw pearls to pigs. Dogs and pigs were despised in those days.” (Walvoord, J.F & Zuck R.B, Victor Books, Wheaton Il 1983).

Now at first glance that appears to fit my application. But I’ve been reading a chapter of Proverbs almost every day for the past seven months and there is a recurring theme regarding the wise and foolish (unholy) people of this world.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and correction.” (Prov. 1:7)

“The one who corrects a mocker will bring dishonor on himself.” (Prov. 9:7)

“Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but one who hates correction is stupid.” (Prov 12:1)

Don’t speak to a fool, for he will despise the insight of your words.” (Prov. 23:9)

A wise correction to a receptive ear is like a gold ring or an ornament of gold.” (Prov. 25:12)

I’m not saying that my previous application of this verse was wrong. I think that this broadens the application. Not only do we need to be careful who we share our life, our hopes, dreams and challenges with as we follow Jesus, because we do need the encouragement of support of the body of Christ. In addition to that, however, we need to be careful when we are called to give feedback or try to challenge someone, even a “supposed” Christian.

First, we need to follow Jesus’ words and make sure our own hearts are pure and that we are not doing the very same things (or worse) that we are about to confront someone about. Secondly, if we know that person well, we need to assess if they might even be receptive to hearing our heart of concern for them and their walk with God.  Are they a wise person or a fool?  Sometimes we don’t know until we have to try to confront, and tell the truth in love.

Let me give two examples.  First a negative one.  I had someone slander me in ministry. I prayed, I confessed, I sought insight from an accountability partner as to whether the very sin I was aware of in this other person might be something I myself was engaging in.  God showed me an area where I had seriously erred in the relationship.  So I met with this woman and began by confessing my own sin and apologizing for the words I had spoken in haste.  She was receptive to that. But when I turned and pointed to the slander that she had committed to writing to another person about me, she laughed in my face.  I was sad because I had liked this woman and had hoped to have her serving in our ministry.  After that conversation however, I left knowing that “fool” or “unsafe” were better applied to her and that I could never entrust leadership to a woman who would so callously abuse my reputation with lies and willingly confessed to doing it to many others.  The funny thing was, she claimed she wanted to support me in ministry and was blind to the fact that this in essence undermined my efforts to serve and lead. My pearls were trampled.

A more positive example. A week ago a woman from my small group called me up on the phone. She was so apologetic and said that she wondered if I had been hurt by her in some way and if there was something she needed to repent of because she had felt that on Sunday mornings I had been distant and not “warm” in my interactions with her.  I sat there stunned. She had not done anything wrong. I apologized profusely for any unintentional hurt I might have caused and applauded her courage and her sweet spirit in the way she confronted me. She didn’t even mean to confront me! She thought it was her fault. Talk about a humble, gentle and sweet spirit.  We had a wonderful conversation for over an hour and our relationship grew because she was wise in how and who she shared her issue with.  I’m not perfect. I could have taken offense and trampled her feelings (like the previous woman had done to me).  But I treasured the holy pearls that this woman brought before me and in the end, they got a little more polished from the interaction. More beautiful.

So who do you know that you can share your pearls with and who are the pigs and dogs in your life?  Sometimes it’s good to know these things  before troubles and conflict emerge. Not that we never confront a fool, but in doing so we go in knowing that we may be a bit bruised for the effort and trust God work in their hearts.  Jesus gives us permission to be careful with who we judge and how we do it. He gives us guidance, because we do need to judge at times. But first let us be found worthy of treasuring the pearls of others instead of acting like pigs ourselves.

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The Iridescence of Pain

I apologize that I haven’t written for a little while as I’ve been working on my book!  I am taking today off because I wanted you to have some encouragement now – while we wait for other events to transpire.

I was thinking about pearls today.  Did you know that a natural pearl starts from a microscopic irritation or parasite that invades a mollusk?  Yup. The offending item gets surrounded as a way to protect the clam and as layer after layer forms to isolate the irritation, something beautiful and precious emerges.

In James 1, after some talk about the benefit of persevering under trials (and counting as joy?), a few verses later says this:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (Jas 1:17 HCSB)

Trials and irritations in our life can either destroy us; resulting in bitterness, anger, wrath and other not so nice attributes, or they can create in us character that shines for the glory of God.  Peace, joy, faithfulness. . . a gift.

A pearl starts with a minor irritation.  Maybe you have a major one in your life; a spouse that’s challenging, or a kid that has special needs, or a chronic health issue or pain. It’s up to you to decide whether you will take the irritant that you cannot expel (clams are unable to simply kick the irritant out of their shell), and let it fester or allow it to grow wonderful things in your heart.

Godly character cannot be manufactured.  Pearls can be grown and ‘cultured” – but they do not compare in the quality and priceless value of one that begins wild, organic, in the ocean starting with an irritant.  We can fake it if we want, but when compared to true character, we will pale in comparison to someone who has allowed trials to mold and polish them in the image of Christ.

I want to shine. I want to shimmer and reflect God’s goodness and love to me that covers all those yucky irritations in my life. Heck, I should have a glorious string of pearls at this point in my life!  Maybe they will be part of the crown Jesus gives me when I meet Him in the heavenlies!

I’m praying that today you recognize the beauty that comes as you persevere through trials so you can have an incomparable iridescence as the priceless treasure that you are to our King!

Blessings!
LGB