This passage has been historically interpreted in several ways. One early interpretation was in regards to Holy Communion- that the Church should guard the Holy Sacrament from unbelievers. (see Didache 9:9-12) Although this is a venerable interpretation and application, the context of this injunction is in regards to undue criticism and ungodly judgement. (see Matt. 7:1-6)
Just as it is a sin to search out the straw in our brother’s eye while disregarding the plank that is in ours, it is also a sin to allow for others to trample on what is incalculably precious to our Master.
Jesus wants for us to live our lives with discernment between what is profitable for the mission of the Gospel, and what is not. Matthew 7:6 is a warning to everyone who seeks to imitate him in selfless service. Selfless service is admired by most people of every culture… but not all are willing to fully espouse such an entertaining concept. One only has to see the outcome of Jesus’ own selfless service to appreciate the dangers that come with this territory. (see Philippians 2:5-8)
Notice how Jesus says: “Do not give what is holy to the dogs…” Jesus taught this before instituting Holy Communion- that means that the literal meaning goes beyond the Sacrament. What is holy? YOU ARE! In Christ you have been sanctified (1Cor. 1:30; 6:11; Heb. 10:10,14. et. al.), which means that you are holy. If you are holy, then the first thing you should guard is your own life and well-being when serving the Lord (unless the Lord instructs you to do otherwise). Your life is the “pearl of great price” that cost the Master his own life on the Cross. (Matthew 13:46) You are Christ’s eternal investment…
In addition to this, if God has called you to a special ministry, you are literally a gift of God to the Holy Christian Church. (Eph. 4:5) The “pearl” of this parable is also referring to the message of the Gospel- since the believer becomes an embodiment and representative of the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, the servant and the message become one.
In Scripture dogs and swine are symbolic of the type of people who after they have repented and accepted the Gospel message, return to their sinful lifestyles; like dogs that return their vomit, or swine that go back into the mud after being bathed. 2 Peter 2:22 (NIV) says:
Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”
The point that the Master is making is that in our selfless service to the Gospel, we must guard ourselves and our message from those who pay lip service to God while their hearts are far from him. (Isaiah 29:13) Selfless service is admirable, but at the same time, one must be judiciously shrewd when it comes to investing our holy lives.
Many people will say nice things and give you things as a way to manipulate you for their own passions and greed. Like in the corporate world, the Church is also filled with people who are competing for status, glory, and control. Many people will do and/or say anything in order to get their way, rather than thinking about what Jesus Christ thinks concerning a matter.
I personally know of a case regarding a Pastoral family who invested their lives into a ministry, and especially a group of persons in their church. They sacrificed their lives in ways that transcend the average, Western mind. The Pastor and his family went beyond the constraints of Western ambition and the expectation of remuneration, thinking that if they did so, that the ones they were sacrificing for would be inspired to imitate their lives. When the church began to suffer financially, the Pastor and his family held on to their commitment- as it was expected by those who admire selfless service from afar. Rather than being cherished and protected, they ended up being mistreated, disregarded and abandoned when the Pastor tried to lead a campaign of transformational discipleship and evangelism.
As a result of their selfless giving, those they served lost all respect for their Pastor and his family for what seemed to them to be a lack of self-love. In a world where “me, myself and I” are the Holy Trinity, selfless service is not a virtue. In fact, some would consider it as a mark of weakness and lack of self-esteem.
“In a world where ‘me, myself and I’ are the Holy Trinity, selfless service is not a virtue.”–jcr
The reality is that most people don’t want to change…and if you persuade them to become disciples of Christ. many of them will not only trample your teachings, but they will also attempt to destroy you! Beware of preaching to those who do not want to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches!
So the bottom line is… beware of investing your holy lives with those who will not appreciate it. If you’re ministering to ungrateful, indifferent and egocentric people- then most likely they will end up not only trampling what you have taught them, but also seek to destroy you. Those who want to change and become disciples, will do so with very little effort from your part… But if you’re trying to force them into the Kingdom, they will certainly betray and destroy you.
If you really want to be like Jesus… DON’T TRUST ANYONE. (John 2:24)