Dogs and swine – Tomorrow’s reading reflection


“Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

It seems hard to believe that Jesus would use such harsh words when talking to his disciples.  What did he really mean?  Did he really use the words dogs and swine to describe, what in his time, were considered Gentiles?  The NABRE (New American Bible Revised Edition) gives the following helpful note:

[7:6] Dogs and swine were Jewish terms of contempt for Gentiles. This saying may originally have derived from a Jewish Christian community opposed to preaching the gospel (what is holy, pearls) to Gentiles. In the light of Mt 28:19 that can hardly be Matthew’s meaning. He may have taken the saying as applying to a Christian dealing with an obstinately impenitent fellow Christian (Mt 18:17). [Bold mine]

Have you ever had this experience yourself?  In humility you may know that what you are saying is right but someone else refuses to listen to you.  This is often the case in families as Jesus himself says in another place. “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.”   (Mk 6:4)  The case of arguing with an obstinately impenitent person seems less rare these days as relativism continues to extend its tentacles.  

What Jesus may have been saying is similar to what he said to his disciples about preaching the Gospel in towns that do not welcome them.  “Shake the dust from your feet,” he tells them.  In other words, propose the Gospel and the truth in charity, and if the person refuses to hear you, walk away.  There is no point arguing with a fool.

Is fool a strong word?  Maybe not.  Jesus, who of course was familiar with the Psalm and Proverbs, may have been “importing” wisdom from the same.  Here are a few Old Testament verses that may help us to understand why Jesus said what he said.

Do not speak in the hearing of fools;
they will despise the wisdom of your words. (Prv 23:9)

Whoever corrects the arrogant earns insults;
and whoever reproves the wicked incurs opprobrium.
Do not reprove the arrogant, lest they hate you;
reprove the wise, and they will love you. (Prv 9:7-8)

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion. (Prv 18:2)

Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself. (Prv 26:4)