In the Sermon on the Mount Christ issued this warning:
Do not give that which is holy to the dogs, neither throw your pearls before the swine, lest perhaps they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you (Mt. 7:6).
Being a boy from the country, and having owned both dogs and hogs, I can value this ancient admonition. It is rich in meaning and could prevent much wasted time, unnecessary frustration, and — in some instances — even harm to the cause of Christ.
Yet, good-hearted, zealous people have a tremendously difficult time recognizing its wisdom and yielding to the Savior’s instruction.
It should be noted initially that both dogs and hogs are brute beasts (as much as we are fond of our pets), or, as Jude expresses it, they are “creatures without reason” (Jude 10; cf. 2 Pet. 2:12). They have no logical capacity, no qualitative appreciation, and no value discernment.
To a pig, a diamond is of less worth than a bucket of slop. To a dog, a stick to play with would be preferable to a Rembrandt painting.
Let us then make several observations relative to this maxim.
Measure Their Response
Christ was not attempting to discourage evangelism. The Great Commission clearly indicates that “every creature” needs to be exposed to the saving message of Christ (Mk. 16:15), so that the person who wills may come (Rev. 22:17).
The text does not suggest that if one’s teaching of the gospel is initially rejected, the teacher is to immediately turn away and quench all further evangelistic efforts. This was not the procedure pursued by the early teachers of the gospel. Potential converts may be confused, unlearned, inept, stunned, uncertain, or hurting. Patience must be exercised.
But some responses are so vile, brutal, and utterly reprehensible that one can fairly conclude that further time is an exercise in absolute futility.
Apparently that was Paul’s experience in Antioch of Pisidia when certain Jews they encountered were filled with jealousy, contradicted the things spoken by Paul, and blasphemed truth (Acts 13:45; 18:6; 19:9; cf. Phil. 3:2 and Tit. 3:10).
One does need to recognize the potential danger in prolonged conflict with unspiritual and unbalanced people. And no fanatic is more dangerous than the determined anti-God radical or the “religious kook.”
In a half-century of preaching I have known teachers who have been threatened with lawsuits, and, on occasion, with actual physical assault. There are radicals who hesitated not to take their battles from words, into the street.
Not Every Person Has an Honest Heart
It is a sad reality, but not every person has that “honest and good heart” of which Christ spoke in his parable of the sower (Lk. 8:15). Some people are belligerent and totally unmoved by a biblical appeal or a reasonable argument. They could not recognize a logical proposition if their life hung in the balance. They hate the Bible as no other book on earth.
But they dearly love to argue. They would rather dispute than eat. When one permits folks of this caliber to indulge his time, he is the loser.
Occasionally such characters may be of one’s own family (Mt. 10:36). Just because one entertains a closer genetic relationship with a parent or sibling, than he does with Osama bin Laden, does not suggest that he should waste his time with the former when there appears to be no hope of conversion or peace.
One should refuse to accommodate the argumentative person who would dispute a sign he painted himself. Quarrelsome, cantankerous cranks can consume your time, your energy, and your sanity. They will keep you awake at night, and agitated in the daytime. They can make you grouchy with others and difficult to live with. Leave them alone!
One might add that some of these factious people profess Christianity. They sit in classes and survey sermons to see what they can “catch,” and of which they might rebuke the devout teacher (and no one should be adverse to honest, constructive correction).
They have their pet doctrines and introduce them whenever there is an open crack through which they can slip. They are waiting at the front door to pick a fight with the preacher as he attempts to greet visitors. They are enemies of truth; ignore them. Unfortunately, some seem to enjoy the ongoing conflict as much as the antagonist does.
Don’t Help Them Dig In
There is another aspect of this matter that also is worthy of contemplation.
When one constantly and vigorously disputes with, and presses a religious opponent, he likely is helping the person in error dig in deeper, thus perhaps hardening his heart.
Even the stubborn enemy of the truth has a soul, and he may need time to cool down, to think, to evaluate evidence in a calmer atmosphere. A first-century observer might easily have predicted that Saul of Tarsus would never change from his hostility to the Way of Christ, but how wrong he would have been!