The Bible180 challenge, week 21

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We'll soon finish our second week in the Gospels, closing up the accounts of Luke and Matthew. I always find the Gospels challenging because they are so tightly packed with Jesus' many different teachings that it's hard to choose a theme to dwell on and mull over, but this week Matthew 7:6 stood out to me:

"Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."

I used to find this verse very odd. It makes up its own paragraph tucked between the famous "Do not judge" and "Golden rule" passages in Matthew, toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount. On a cursory reading, it just doesn't seem to fit - this visual of tossing valuable gems at the feet of an unclean animal right in between a warning about hypocrisy and a modern-day platitude.

But as I read through the Gospels, the mental image is fleshed out in the actions of Jesus.

After His arrest, Jesus is questioned several different times by the Sanhedrin, by Pilate, and by Herod. The Sanhedrin demand that He admit whether or not He's the Christ. Pilate asks Him if He is indeed a king. Herod questions Him solely in hopes of getting a show of His miracles.

Jesus' responses to these demands vary in content, but in principle they are painstakingly consistent: they are fearlessly truthful and they engage no further argument.

To the Sanhedrin who asked if He was the Christ, He said, "If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask you a question, you will not answer" (Luke 22:67-68). When at last the high priest Caiaphas demands whether He is the Son of God, Jesus responds, "You have said it yourself" (Matthew 26:64).

To Pilate who asked if He was a king, He said, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth" (John 18:37). When Pilate asks flippantly, "What is truth?" Jesus makes no reply (John 18:38).

And to Herod who looked to Him only for entertainment and mockery, He answered back nothing at all (Luke 23:9).

What I find awe-inspiring about Jesus is that His vision is so utterly clear. He discerns the intent behind every question perfectly, and keeps His eyes on the end goal rather than getting caught up in debate with those who have already made up their minds. His focus in razor-sharp - He isn't there to sway the faithless, but to save the ones who believe.

He doesn't waste what is holy on dogs.

All of this helped to clarify that funny little proverb from Matthew 7 for me.

"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
"Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."
Matthew 7:1-6

It's not a coincidence that Matthew 7:1-5 directly precede verse 6. The first five verses contain the key to the success of the sixth: crystal-clear vision. The point of Matthew 7:1-5 is less "Do not judge" and more "Make certain you can see clearly." If we allow our vision to be clouded by our own sins and selfishness, our rebukes will hurt those who believe and be wasted on those who don't. But when we can see clearly - when our focus is razor-sharp - we can genuinely love our sinning brethren, and guard the truth from those who only want to trample on it.

We aren't here to sway the faithless, but to point the believing to salvation.

And what a relief! We are set free from silly Facebook arguments that only hurt relationships and from debates with hard-hearted "experts" who have already made up their minds - free to pour our love and truth and energy out for the soft hearts and the humble and the seeking, as Jesus so readily did.

He always had time to answer truly sincere questions, to heal and feed and teach, to spend time with the little children and the humble of heart. Let's take care to clear our vision so that we can do the same.

 

Resources

Matthew: God of the Jews

Genre: Biography
Total read time: 2.5 hours

Mark: God of the Romans

Genre: Biography
Total read time: 1.5 hours

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Hallie Liening

Hallie grew up on a small farm in rural eastern Washington. At 18, she moved across the country to go to Bible school, and then married the Boy Next Door at 20. Now 22, she is a graduate of Great Commission Bible Institute with a Certificate in Biblical Studies and resides in Olympia with her husband and her two cats. She survives the claustrophobia of living near the city by making frequent trips back home to visit her family and her horse, writing sentimental blog posts about the countryside, and by filling her house with photographs of Mt. Adams sunsets.