Pearls Before Swine
Your pearls might be my pigs and vice versa. Therefore, let's maybe judge each other less, yeah?
When it comes to Jesus’ teachings there seems to be, at first glance, a rather obvious intention in many of his words. You might call this a surface level, clear and simple meaning.
And yet, at the same time, I think one of the reasons Jesus’ teachings has had such lasting impact is because there’s also more than meets the ear.
His words had a way of touching the Deep.
They reflected what is True and Real.
They held within them the capacity to explore Meaning and Beauty in ways that clung to the hearts and minds of those who heard him (and that still clings to many today).
I liken it to a relationship with someone you love. At first you might be drawn to them because physically they match what you think is attractive (aka, the surface level clear and obvious meaning). And then over time, the more you get to know them, and the more time you spend reflecting on who they are and what makes them tick and how they move through the world, the deeper in love you fall (aka, there’s more than meets the eye).
One of the rookie mistakes I made in my early preaching days was to assume that each passage in the Bible has one meaning, and the goal of the earnest seeker is therefore to crack the code of interpretation, deduce the singular meaning, and then figure out how to apply it to our lives.
This kind of singular-meaning-hermeneutic is just one of the many ways in which Christianity has lost connection with its Jewish heritage. For within Judaism (at least, as I understand it) one begins with the assumption that a sacred text has many meanings. As one might turn a gem in your hand and notice the many angles and sides and reflections, so it is with holding Scripture and appreciating the myriad ways it meets us and emanates its beauty.
So in that spirit, the other day I was thinking about the time Jesus said, “Do not cast your pearls before swine.”
I got to thinking about how I’ve typically understood this teaching, and how I’ve tried to live it out. Generally speaking, I’ve considered the point of this teaching to mean that it’s foolish to give good things to people who can’t or won’t appreciate them.