In this episode we will be exploring the topic of vigilance, and how we need to be highly aware of our audience when we are attempting to share the good news of the Kingdom of God. Yeshua stated it this way:
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6
In essence, what he is saying is not to share something sacred or spiritually pure with those who are not receptive. While the message of the Bible can be good news to those who need to hear its message, not everyone is receptive to its principles.
In the Expositor’s Greek Testament commentary, the following explanation delves into that a little bit deeper.
“The “holy” and the “pearls” must define themselves for each individual in his own experience. They are the things which are sacred and precious for a man or woman, and which natural feeling teaches us to be careful not to waste or expose to desecration. For this purpose knowledge of the world, discrimination, is necessary. We must not treat all people alike, and show our valuables, religious experiences, best thoughts, tenderest sentiments, to the first comer. Shyness, reserve, goes along with sincerity, depth, refinement. In all shyness there is implicit judgment of the legitimate kind. A modest woman shrinks from a man whom her instinct discerns to be impure; a child from all hard-natured people. Who blames woman or child? It is but the instinct of self-preservation.”
This is not a new condition, and Yeshua was also no stranger to this principle:
Proverbs 9:7-8 He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man [gets] insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you…
Proverbs 29:27 An unjust person is detestable to the righteous, and one whose way is upright is detestable to the wicked.
John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it does hate me because I testify about it – that its works are evil.
Yeshua also gives us insight as to why some people are more receptive than others.
John 3:19-20 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
We need to exercise vigilance among those with whom we are sharing our insights and understanding. While those sacred pearls of wisdom that you have received from God may be priceless in your sight, they may not have the same effect on others who are not in a similar spiritual frame of reference.
The apostle John, in his gospel, relates how the depths of Yeshua’s teachings were not always well-received, even by some of his own followers; and yet he made no attempt to console them or win them back, he simply let them go.
John 6:57-69 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he who feeds on me, he will also live because of me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven—not as our fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of his disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying! Who can listen to it?” But Jesus knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? Then what if you would see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life. But there are some of you who don’t believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who didn’t believe, and who it was who would betray him. He said, “For this cause have I said to you that no one can come to me, unless it is given to him by my Father.” At this, many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jesus said therefore to the twelve, “You don’t also want to go away, do you?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
So while the disciples recognized the truth of Yeshua and his message, many others didn’t, and simply stopped following him.
In another place, when Yeshua was sending out the twelve disciples to the cities throughout Israel, he provided them the following direction.
Luke 9:2-5 He sent them forth to preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey—neither staffs, nor wallet, nor bread, nor money; neither have two coats apiece. Into whatever house you enter, stay there, and depart from there. As many as don’t receive you, when you depart from that city, shake off even the dust from your feet for a testimony against them.”
Yeshua cautioned his disciples to walk circumspectly with those who are unreceptive, primarily as a testimony against them, but also for their own safety and well-being. This is a cautionary reminder to us as well that our brief time here will be better spent on investing in those who have willing and open hearts.
As we move to stories of the early believers, we see the apostles also recognized this aspect of the gospel, that it would be best received by those who are most willing to hear it.
Acts 13:44-46 The next Sabbath almost the whole city was gathered together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted the things which were spoken by Paul, and blasphemed. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, and said, “It was necessary that God’s word should be spoken to you first. Since indeed you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.
Regarding the selective nature of whom the apostles were sharing the message with, Matthew Poole in his commentary adds the following:
“The gospel is to be preached to every creature, Mark 16:15. But when the Jews were hardened, and spake evil of that way before the multitude, Acts 19:9, the apostles left preaching to them. The precept doubtless is general, directing the ministers of Christ to administer the holy things, with which they are intrusted, only to such as have a right to them, and under prudent circumstances, so as the holy name of God may not be profaned, nor they run into needless danger.”
I find it interesting that he says believers are to minister holy things “only to those who have a right to them.” While I believe everyone has a right to understand the things of God, not everyone receives it equally well, and we need to be on guard to recognize that. The admonition for believers is to exercise care and discernment in sharing the wisdom of God with those who are not just resistant, but with those who are, or become, aggressive.
Going back to the passage that Matthew Poole referenced in Acts 19, we see this exemplified for us.
Acts 19:8-10 He [Paul] entered into the synagogue [in Ephesus], and spoke boldly for a period of three months, reasoning and persuading about the things concerning the Kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all those who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
Here in the Ephesian synagogue, some of the Jews had not only hardened themselves to the message of the gospel of the Kingdom, but they began trash-talking the believers of the true Way. Because of this, in his vigilance and care for the true believers and the integrity of the message, Paul simply separated himself and those who were sincere into a different meeting place. Ultimately, this was for their protection, but also for their edification. As such, this strategy appears to have been successful, as essentially all of Asia ended up hearing the message within a period of about two years.
As an aside, this may be a casual reference to the first recorded regular meeting place of the followers of Yeshua outside of an actual synagogue.
At any rate if we learn to spend our time and attention with those who are most willing to seek God‘s kingdom and to follow his precepts, we will be more successful in fulfilling God’s purpose.
Proverbs 9:8-9 …Reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.
Today we call this “discipling,” when in ancient times it was known simply as “giving knowledge.”
Yeshua alludes to this giving and receiving aspect of God’s wisdom when he explains to his disciples why he spoke in parables.
Matthew 13:10-17 The disciples came, and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered them, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them. For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance, but whoever doesn’t have, from him will be taken away even that which he has. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they don’t see, and hearing, they don’t hear, neither do they understand. In them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says, ‘By hearing you will hear, and will in no way understand; Seeing you will see, and will in no way perceive:
for this people’s heart has grown callous, their ears are dull of hearing, they have closed their eyes; or else perhaps they might perceive with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and should turn again; and I would heal them.’ “But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For most certainly I tell you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which you see, and didn’t see them; and to hear the things which you hear, and didn’t hear them.
The message of God’s kingdom is one of selective hearing, to be sure, but it is also one of selective teaching. For those who are willfully resistant, the message of the kingdom was preached by Yeshua, but couched in parabolic symbolism. For those who were willing to receive the message, the information was shared freely, and further corroborated and illumined by the Spirit of God within them, as John explains.
1 John 2:27 And as for you, the anointing which you received of him abides in you, and you need not that any one teach you; but as his anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, abide in him.
If we are to follow the example of Messiah and the early believers, we should likewise be vigilant in recognizing our audience whenever we are sharing the good news of the kingdom. It not only makes sense, but it actually appears to be preferential in the Word of God to spend much more time sharing the truths of God’s Word with believers and those who are willing to listen than to cast our pearls before those who would only throw them back at us in disdain. As we do so, we can become much more efficient in sowing the seeds in the good soil, and less seeds on the rocky soil. In this way, we must take the time and wisdom to learn to not be reckless with the truth.
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.