Throwing Pearls Before Swine

This morning I read one of my favourite texts in the readings from The Bible in One Year. Still in the Sermon on the Mount, I read Matthew 7:6, ‘Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.’ As I typed it out just now, I realise how strange it is to say this is one of my favourite texts. It sounds so strange.

Well, there’s a story behind it. After I graduated seminary, but before I came to England, I spent my summer participating in a unit of Clinical Pastoral
Education (or, CPE). If you’re unfamiliar with CPE, it is an intense period of learning pastoral care in a clinical setting led by a supervisor and in groups with other students (one of my greatest friends from seminary was in my group and she blogs at Jerusalem to Jericho). It allows you to get to know yourself in ways that you really couldn’t otherwise. I know people have had different experiences with it, but I would recommend it to anyone. Mine was a great, though hard working, experience. I had a great group and a great supervisor. It was one of the top experiences of my life.

During one session with my supervisor, I admitted something to her that I have shared with very few people. In our ongoing discussions, we talked if I needed to share this with others. I remember her response because it is the words from this passage, ‘Do not throw your pearls before swine.’ In other words, she meant for me to be careful with whom I shared the most intimate parts of myself. That is not to say you share with no one! This isn’t a call for complete secrecy or hiding behind a false façade; just care in who you talk to.

I find it interesting that this passage comes after Jesus’ command not to judge others. Section titles weren’t in the original manuscripts but their presence does give interpretive insights of the translators. The NRSV puts 7:6 as a stand alone section. The NIV tags at the end of the section beginning 7:1 and entitled ‘Judging Others’. I see this as a passage (or at least my supervisor’s interpretation of it!) of enormous grace for me who judges myself much harsher than I do anyone else. There is a sense in which who I am is not simply put out there for everyone to judge. Again this doesn’t mean keeping everything private: it means choosing carefully who I want my thoughts, feelings, past stories, etc., to be a part in helping me celebrate or heal, rather than risk just anyone trample over.


4 thoughts on “Throwing Pearls Before Swine

  1. I had never liked this one until that CPE summer, when Marion helped me to see the wisdom – and grace of it. And the pearl is such a rich metaphor – a pearl being formed in response to, and surrounding the source of an irritation, a pain that comes from outside of the oyster and lodges there – it becomes something quite precious – a thing of beauty, a shimmering layered thing. It has not only helped me in how I share myself, but in how I honor that which another shares with me, though they might not yet see the value in it. Thank you for recalling that time to mind, Will!

  2. Sarah, this is why I miss CPE! (Well, this part of it, anyway!) You take what I have been reflecting on and open up a new perspective on it! I had not even thought about the grain being the pain or irritant and the ability of God to make something beautiful out of it! Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s