“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." (Matthew 7:6)
What does Jesus mean by not giving 'dogs what is sacred'?This often quoted metaphorical statement by Jesus was not only instructive regarding how Jesus' disciples and students were to teach - but also renders clarity on why many of Jesus’ public teachings utilized parables and metaphors.
The word "sacred" here - taken from the Greek word ἅγιος (hagios) meaning "most holy thing" according to the lexicon - refers to the confidential teachings relating to the spiritual realm and the Supreme Being.
These were the primary elements of Jesus' most valuable teachings - which were coming from the Supreme Being, as Jesus stated elsewhere:
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)In other words, Jesus was guarding the confidential teachings coming from the Supreme Being.
And because Jesus was giving this instruction to his disciples, Jesus' point relates also to this confidential nature of his teachings, as well as the teachings of the prophets before him:
Yes, these teachings have been carefully guarded over the centuries.
Were some of Jesus' teachings confidential?Some of Jesus' teachings - especially those directed at his disciples in private - were confidential.
Jesus confirmed the confidential ("secret") nature of these teachings elsewhere:
"The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables...." (Mark 4:11-12)Jesus sometimes spoke in parables so that only those who were humble enough to be able to receive spiritual understanding could receive the message. Others -- those with their own agendas -- were left puzzled about the message of the particular message.
Jesus is indicating that God communicates His lessons and truths to those who are ready and receptive to hear them. His communications can come directly through our heart ("Holy Spirit") or through His confidential representatives.
Who are the 'pigs' according to Jesus?
From Abraham to Moses to David to John the Baptist and Jesus, and many in between and from other cultures and times we find God communicating to those who are ready to hear.
But we also find the Truth passed down by God's prophets has been in many cases misinterpreted by those who have sought to utilize them for their own purposes of gaining power and authority.
For this reason, we find many of God's communications have often been neglected or ignored over the centuries.
These are the "pigs" that Jesus is warning us about.
How do we know if we are ready to hear it?A sincere desire to come to know the Supreme Being is the signal that one is ready to hear Jesus' confidential teachings.
This is confirmed by Jesus' next statement.
For this reason, Jesus was teaching his disciples to carefully present the Truth to those who are ready to hear it. He wanted them to carefully lay out the right amount of wisdom to meet the situation and the depth of the listener, to avoid the Truth being trampled upon and misused.
In terms of students of Jesus' teachings, there is another message: The teachings of God's representative are best received with humility and reverence.
This point was confirmed by another statement by Jesus:
“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children." (Matthew 11:25)