When I was young, I never understood the point of fancy serving wear. What was wrong with presenting dinner in my mom’s beloved, yet worn pots and pans? As I’ve grown, I realize while that 1980s something roasting pan was useful, it didn’t present prime rib well to special guests. The old pot used for everything from soup to mac and cheese just didn’t do a gorgeously set table justice when serving the creamiest mashed potatoes to beloved friends. And our favorite 9×13″ pan made dessert shared with precious humans seem less elegant than it was. While there’s nothing wrong with basic cooking wear, it has no place when serving a meal of great cost and beauty to well cherished people.
The same is true of to whom we present the gospel and how we present it.
Do not give to dogs what is sacred; do not cast your pearls before swine. If you do, they may trample them under their feet and turn and tear you to pieces.
I won’t lie, I have wrestled with this verse all my life. And while I believe God has given me insight, I fully expect him to continue to reveal his mysteries to me in this verse and many others. So please, bear with me in grace as I try to decipher with you the heart of God as it pertains to Matthew 7:6.
I don’t believe we are being instructed to not share the gospel with unbelievers. We ourselves were once disciples of our own flesh instead of Jesus Christ our savior until the gospel was shared and reviled to us. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus gives us the great commission saying, “therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” God does not contradict himself. We are to share the gospel with everyone.
Yet, this verse surely makes it sound as though we aren’t to share the gospel with those who don’t want to hear it. But I would argue that Jesus is eluding to this: when you have dinner at your house, you do not force people to come who do not want to come. You can invite them, you can be hospitable to them, but you cannot make them show up. Similarly, we cannot shove the gospel down the throats of those who refuse to listen. Though that doesn’t not release us from praying for them or being a witness to them through the way we conduct our lives, we are not to talk to others about the bible who explicitly express they do not want to hear it. We all have rejected Christ at some point in our lives yet we are no less precious to him because of that. We still love them with the love that Christ has for them. But we don’t shove our beliefs on them. If someone tells us to stop talking to them about God, what kind of example would we be of Christ if we disrespected their wishes?
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20) Jesus is a gentleman who gently knocks on the door of our hearts and waits for an invitation to come in. Similarly, we must show people the respect of waiting for their ears and hearts to be open to hearing the word. We cannot drag someone into salvation against their will.
I also believe that this scripture is not just addressing who we share the gospel with but also how we share it. If we look at this verse in The Message translation, we see that more clearly.
Don’t be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inventing sacrilege.
Matthew 7:6, The Message
I once heard a quote that has always stuck with me and drives me to dive deeper into Christ myself as well as encourage other Christians to do the same.
“We’ve made elevator music of Jesus Christ. We’ve made him the most boring, bland, blah person; and he was the most revolutionary man.” -John Eldridge
I believe this quote captures the heart of this translation of Matthew 7:6. We treat God and the gospel as ordinary, mundane ideas. In reality, God’s existence, Jesus’s earthly life, death, and resurrection, and the Holy Spirit’s dwelling within us is the most significant fact and choice in our lives. Yet, we are so flippant with the living, breathing word of God.
For example, we say Jesus loves you in the same way we say we love chocolate or we state an unimportant fact. When Jesus, God himself in human form, humbled himself in coming to earth, experienced the most excruciating death, and conquered our sins and eternal damnation in his resurrection because he has the most incomprehensible love for you and me. In Ephesians 3:17-19, Paul prayed this for the people in Ephesus: “then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grown down into God’s love and keep you strong. May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and the power that comes from God.” Paul did not treat lightly the love of God as we do today. He understood the enormous, incomprehensible love that God has for his people. He did not cheat it by reducing it to a slogan that is beaten to death in the church today.
We are sharing the gospel with people, not what we heard Oprah say on TV the other day. We are graced with the gift of the bible being translated to so many languages worldwide and the ability to seek and know God. But we cannot treat lightly this gift. The bible isn’t a joke. It is the life giving written word of the one and only God. It should be treated with reverence and as that which is holy. Our accessibly to the gospel does not make it less special. Let us fear treating the radical, holiness of scripture as boring elevator music.
When you’re serving guest in your home, you’re serving good food. These aren’t pigs out in your barn and this isn’t slop you’re feeding them. You would never put a pime cut of steak with saffron sauce or truffle pasta in a pig trough and give it to animals who don’t care for it. We serve the best foods to willing guests on our best china. Similarly, we share the this gift of the gospel with a reverential spirit towards God and his word to eager hearts. Let us be wise in how we handle what is holy and thoughtful in how we share it to our fellow man.