Once I was on a farm where the farmer had a hog that was so huge, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw it! It just lay there on the ground, flicking its ears and shaking its rolls of fat in an attempt to shoo away the flies. I was simply amazed at the enormous size of that hog. I wondered, How can it even stand up?
I asked the owner, “Does that pig do anything except lie here?”
The owner answered, “It hardly moves until it’s time to eat. But when it’s dinnertime, that pig nearly jumps to its feet, snorting with joy and excitement at the prospect of eating a meal!”
When I heard this, it made me think of what Jesus said about pigs in Matthew 7:6. He told us, “… Neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”
I always thought this was a strange verse, because pearls and pigs in the same verse seem like such a bizarre mixture! But Jesus had a purpose for using this example, so we need to take a look and see why He made this statement and what it means for you and me.
First, Jesus said, “… neither cast ye….” The word “cast” is from the Greek word ballo, and it means to throw or to cast. But the Greek is so strong that it could be translated, “… NEVER cast your pearls before swine….” In other words, this word conveys a strong prohibition to never do something! As we saw in yesterday’s Sparkling Gem, Jesus wasn’t giving a suggestion here; He was giving an order that this particular action should never be taken!
The word “pearls” is the Greek word margarites. You may find it interesting to know that this is where we get the names Margaret and Margarita. Since Jesus uses the example of pearls in this verse, let’s talk about pearls for a moment.
Pearls are not easily found. To obtain the richest and most beautiful pearls, a diver must dive again and again and again and again. Then after lifting the shells from the sea floor, he must force open the mouth of each shell and dig through the tough meat of the muscle, poking and searching for the tiny white pearl that was formed over a long period of time. These pearls are precious, rare, valuable, and hard to obtain.
This is how you should view the things God has done in your life. You can’t put a price on what you have learned through your life experiences as you’ve walked with Him. Like precious pearls, those life lessons are inestimable in their value because they cost you something. They weren’t the result of shallow swimming. You had to go deep into God to obtain those spiritual treasures.
Each time you open the door to those treasures and begin to share them with someone else, you need to remember that you’re sharing your pearls with that person. The counsel and advice you’re giving may be free to him, but it has cost you everything! So if what you are sharing isn’t appreciated, stop giving that person your pearls!
This is why Jesus said, “… neither cast ye your pearls before swine….” And remember, the Greek more accurately says, “never cast your pearls before swine….” But do you see the word “before”? It is the Greek word emprothen, and it means to present something to someone else. An example would be if I publicly honored a person by presenting him with a special gift. To show honor, I would come to him dressed properly and thoughtfully; then I would give that person a gift that cost me something in order to demonstrate the great honor in which I held him.
By using this word, Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:6 that we shouldn’t waste our time, energy, or money or put too much thought into honoring individuals who don’t even care about what we are doing for them! There’s no reason to get all dressed up, to put hours of contemplation into how to help them, or to open our hearts and tell them deep truths and lessons that have cost us much in life. Why would we ever want to do all that for people who don’t even care?
Jesus uses the example of “swine” or “pigs” to describe this category of people who couldn’t care less about what you are trying to tell them. The word “swine” is from the Greek word choipos, and it can be translated as pig, sow, swine, or hog. Of course, pigs were very well known in Jesus’ day—and in Jewish circles, they were considered to be the lowest, basest, and the most unclean of filthy, stinking animals. For Jesus to refer to people as swine was a very powerful and graphic depiction!
Pigs are consumers. They take, take, and take. They eat and then want more. They never think to ask where the food came from, who paid for it, or what process was required to produce it. They are just mindless, careless consumers.
If you’ve ever been to a pigpen, you know that pigs do nothing but lie on their sides and jump up just in time to eat. They never contribute anything to the farm until they’re dead. Covered in their own mess, waddling around in their own filth, pigs just wait to be fed again and again.
When the bell rings and it’s time for the pigs to eat, they fight and kick to see who can get to the food first. Slopping up the food, slobbering all over themselves, they “eat just like pigs.” Driven to have their need for food met, pigs never stop to say thank you to the person who brought it to them. Not one “thank you” is heard—not even one!
This is exactly like people who don’t appreciate the holy things that are freely given to them from the depths of another person’s life. It’s sad to say, but many believers live and act just like pigs because they are careless, mindless consumers of other people’s time and energy. They never think about how a person obtained his wisdom, what it cost for him to obtain it, or how many years it took for him to come to his present place of growth in God. These people who act like pigs just take and take and take. And after they have drained that person of all his strength, they don’t even take the time to say thank you for what they have consumed!
Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:6 convey this idea:
“Never invest too much time, energy, or money into people who don’t even care about what you are doing for them! I’m commanding you not to share your ‘pearls’—those precious details, experiences, and parts of your life that have cost you so much—with people who live and act like ungrateful pigs….”
As I noted earlier, when Denise and I first began in the ministry, we thought our door and telephone had to be available to people twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Because of this, people came to us all the time. Some of them really needed help, but it didn’t take us too long to learn that some people just wanted us—our time and our energy. They didn’t have any intention of changing or doing anything we suggested. It was almost as if they were sent on a mission designed to drain us dry of everything we had inside of us.
Once these people were finished with us, they’d leave to find someone else. We were just the ones they attached themselves to for that moment. As long as they could get just a little more out of us, they stuck around. But when they had drained us dry, they were off to find a new victim.
Do you see why Jesus used such a strong example? This is exactly what the Lord was referring to when He said such people would “… trample them [our pearls] under their feet….” You see, Jesus wants us to value ourselves and what we have to share so highly that we carefully choose the people with whom we share our treasures.
What is absolutely amazing to me is that Jesus said this ungrateful group of people will most likely “turn again and rend you” in the end. Pastors and leaders from all over the world could tell you about people whom they have tried to help, but who later turned and accused them of being unloving! People like that take all they can from a person; then later they turn against that same person!
It is extremely hard to understand how someone you have tried so hard to help can act so ugly! Nevertheless, that is frequently the case. As soon as you say, “Enough is enough!” and turn your attention elsewhere, this type of person begins to accuse: “You are so unloving. You don’t love me the way you used to love me. If you were a good Christian, you’d listen to me when I talk. You just don’t care.”
You may assume that these people would know they are loved. The reason you have endured so long in your efforts to help them is that you do love them. If you didn’t love them, you would have let go of your relationship with them a long time ago. Only love could have kept you going after they had disappointed you time after time.
But if those individuals aren’t serious by now, they probably never will be serious. So there comes a time when you have to stop behaving like a beggar. You shouldn’t have to beg anyone to follow you. You need to think more highly of yourself—and those whom you are trying to help need to think more highly of you as well.
People must never take you and the pearls of your life for granted. If that starts happening, stop giving to them until their attitude changes. If their attitude never changes, let go of those unfruitful relationships and find someone who will appreciate what you are trying to accomplish in his or her life. You may be fearful to let go of those individuals at first because you’ve put so much time and energy into them. But I assure you, there are other fish in the sea. You are not locked into a few certain individuals. Lots of potential leaders exist in the Body of Christ, just waiting for someone to tap into their God-given abilities.
It’s time for you to quit acting like the world rises and falls on whether or not one person gets with the program. Move on to someone who will contribute to the program instead of being only a “taker” and a consumer of your time and energy.
But what if you are the one who has been acting like a mindless consumer of other people’s time, talents, gifts, and money? If that is the case, it’s time for you to stop acting like a pig! If you’re really a child of God, the Holy Spirit who dwells within you wants to teach you how to start living on a much higher level!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I want to thank You for forgiving me for all the times in my past when others did so much for me that I didn’t appreciate. I was too young and too foolish to really appreciate what was being done for me, but now I understand. So today I want to thank You for everything that has been done for me. I thank You for every person You have sent to love me, to be patient with me, and to be used so mightily in my life. Now I ask You to help me be a blessing and a help to someone else who is just as I once was!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that the pearls in my life are precious and have the power to help other people. I open my heart to share them with people who are serious about listening and growing. Because I’m putting so much time and energy into these people, they are going to grow in the Lord and become something truly great! They possess lots of potential, and their God-given gifts, talents, and abilities will be developed and released because God used me in their lives!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- As you read this Sparkling Gem today, did you find yourself thinking of specific individuals who always take but never give anything back in return? What kind of impression do these people leave on others? Is it positive or negative?
- Can you think of times in your life when you freely took from someone else, never even stopping to think what it cost that person to give so much to you? Have you ever taken the time to go back to that person and thank him for what he so graciously did for you?
- Is there anyone in your life right now who continually takes from you but seems to have no intention of changing? If so, how long are you going to let this situation go on?