“The Danger of a Lack of Discernment” Be Discerning in Your Witness
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 7.6
Matthew 7. In January of this year at the height of the North Korean scare, a false ballistic missile alert was issued via the Emergency Alert System and Commercial Mobile Alert System over television, radio, and cellphones in Hawaii, perhaps you recall. The alert stated that there was an incoming ballistic missile threat to Hawaii, advised residents to seek shelter, and concluded “This is not a drill”. 38 minutes later, it was all over. It was a false alarm. People on the islands were sent into panic, many believing they had minutes left to contact loved ones and most without any sense of where to shelter from a possible nuclear strike.
The man responsible said an on-duty call that came in on January 13 did not sound like a drill. State officials have said that other workers clearly heard the word “exercise” repeated several times.
“Immediately afterward, we find out it was a drill and I was devastated,” the man said. “I still feel very badly about it. I felt sick afterward. It was like a body blow.”
He was not able to eat or sleep and he was subsequently fired. His superiors said they knew for years he had problems performing his job. The worker had mistakenly believed drills for tsunami and fire warnings were actual events and colleagues were not comfortable working with him, the state said. He didn’t see things the way they really were.
Frankly, I don’t always see things the way they are. And that statement is an understatement. Our minds are so twisted; they clearly don’t work right. I so easily believe what is not true. Unless God does a mighty work, we are all flawed in our perceptions of reality. Just like in the book of Judges, we go about doing what is “right in our own eyes.” And not only that, we think that we are right!
ILL: Like the little boy who is screaming, holding onto a rope in a lake. He’s terrified he is going to drown! And then his mom walks by in the knee high water and simply forces his feet to the floor of the shallow lake and he stands up and stops crying.
So often we don’t perceive what is really going on, spiritually, in the spiritual world in ourselves but in lost people who need the gospel.
We need discernment. Last time, judgmentalism. The balance to that is discernment. Let’s read vv. 1-6 again this morning…
Matthew 7:1–6 1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
Discernment will tell you that the goal of any message is to conform ourselves to what the passage is actually saying. No matter how entertaining the message may or may not be, if it doesn’t get the passage right, it’s a bad message. An ambassador speaking on behalf of a king may do a song and dance to win the applause of people, but he’ll be punished by the king. Our goal on any message is to rightly discern the requirements of our king!
Now, what kind of discernment is verse 6 talking about? Well, verses 1-5 teach we’re not to be judgmental and critical, but verse 6 teaches we’re not to be without judgment. Not critical, not judgmental, but discerning. Or to understand it a different way, verses 1-5 teaches that not everyone is qualified to be a rebuke someone else’s sin. Verse 6, not everyone who sins is qualified for rebuke. Ok…so, not everyone sees clearly enough to properly rebuke (logs in our eyes hinder us); but for those who do see clearly, not everyone is to be rebuked (some are dogs and pigs).
So we are told, shockingly, that we must discriminate. Who are they who are obstinate and they mock and attack the proclaimer of the gospel and who are they who are more open to the gospel?
Instead of being judgmental against those who don’t follow Christ, you need discernment. To whom do you preach the gospel and on whom do you not waste your time?
Just saying those words, you understand. But Jesus isn’t at all headed where you might think. Proverbs 12:15 15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
Are we going to listen to our own hearts on this issue? Or, will we listen to Jesus?
Look, Jesus is calling it like it is. Isn’t that what we need? Simply put, there are certain people who are dogs and pigs. Jesus didn’t shy away from calling the Pharisees names…our politically correct culture says…that’s not nice! Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites, he names their sins of taking advantage of others. He said that they make “sons of hell” when they make a proselyte. They are blind guides, fools, blind men, they are full of robbery and self-indulgence, He tells all this to their face! They are whitewashed tombs, a brood of vipers who will not escape the sentence of hell. That’s not nice, but it was necessary.
ILL: So picture the scene! Here’s a man holding a bag of precious pearls and he confronts a pack of snarling dogs and wild pigs. The animals stare at him, with starving eyes. He takes out the pearls and throws them at their feet. Finding the pearls too hard to chew and rather bland, insanity takes over … rage sets in, spitting out the pearls, they turn on him and tear him to pieces.
Who are the dogs and pigs?
EXP/ILL Literal: Obviously, these are not the type of dogs you own. They are not like my families dog Buddy. Buddy is so kind and gentle, well fed, and doesn’t harm anything. He’ll bark at animals to keep them from our garden…, unless it’s during the day when he’s off-duty. … These dogs aren’t like that!
Jesus uses a term for dog here that describes the wild and dangerous street dogs that are in Israel to this day, terrorizing the town of Beit Shemesh. They bit a young woman and dragged her down the street. They run out of from the mountains and knock people over, bit them, traumatize them, sending many to the hospital. One lady was chased by a pack of wild dogs and is so traumatized, she doesn’t want to leave the house!
Imagine giving some precious pearls to these beasts! That wouldn’t make much sense!
Xref Clearly, Jesus is not talking about literal dogs. We know that because the Scripture often uses dogs figuratively. Isaiah 56 speaks of dogs that are greedy, mute dogs unable to bark at intruders, they love lying down and sleeping. And it says “they are shepherds who have no understanding.” Religious leaders.
Paul says Philippians 3 that we are to “beware of the dogs, evil workers, the false circumcision.” These also are religious people who teach a false gospel.
Revelation 22, outside of the eternal city are the “dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons.” These are religious workers who outside the kingdom!
Point: Just like wild dogs can turn and attack you, so also those who oppose the gospel can threaten those who proclaim it.
EXP: It is the same with the pigs. Pigs were forbidden for food under Jewish law, Leviticus 11:7. The wild pig is common in Palestine, living in swamps and places with thick undergrowth, particularly in the Jordan Valley. They damage crops. Farmers in that land to this day struggle with wild boars… how they damage their citrus trees and field crops.
The same kind of thing has happened in Alberta, with boar ranchers loosing their pigs which survive on their own out in the wild and eat farmers’ fields.
Like dogs, however, Jesus isn’t talking about literal pigs; this is figurative language. We know that pigs are filthy and known for bad manners.
Proverbs 11:22 22 As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.” Pigs have bad manners!
So when the Jewish people heard the word “pig” they heard something detestable. And if you are to throw some pearls before those pigs, they may mistake them for something edible like a pea…. And they go over to investigate, taste it, and then would spit them out simply, and probably ignore them.
Point: obviously, these two figures are speaking of people. But who? The dogs are the religious Jews who despise Jesus and who would persecute Christians. Since the Jews called Gentiles pigs, pigs would be referring to those wretchedly immoral Gentiles who mock and scoff, actually defiling the precious gospel when it’s presented to them.
Not everyone who would rebuke should, and not everyone who needs rebuke should be rebuked!
These people are deeply unable to appreciate the gospel. Not only that, they trample on it. And they are violent against it. This is what we have in 2 Peter 2.
Peter is warning the people about, verse 1, false prophets who introduced destructive heresies. They are sensual verse 2 and verse 3 they are greedy, they verse 10 indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires, despise authority, verse 12 they are like unreasoning animals, verse 14 they have eyes full of adultery and hearts trained in greed, forsaking the right way verse 15. Verse 21 they knew the way of righteousness and turned away from the holy commandment … Now, verse 22…
2 Peter 2:22 22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”
It’s these kinds of people. … They are lovers of sin; they seem religious, but they are the lovers of sin. They knew the gospel, seemed to have accepted it, and turned away.
These people we’re to avoid in a certain way; they’ve already had many opportunities to hear and receive the truth, but have rejected it. Even more than that, they distort it and use it for their own purposes. They may look so nice and have a smile on their face. But sin has so affected them that given the right conversation, they will mock and scoff, and turn to mocking, verbal abuse, and in some cases even violence. In many parts of the world today, they will persecute you.
TRANS: Back to Matthew 7. Now, what is our responsibility to people like this?
What are we not to throw to them: precious things
We are not to throw them certain things. What are those things? The dogs don’t get the holy things and the pigs don’t get the pearls.
EXP: To be holy is to be set apart to God. To be consecrated. Think of the holiness of God. We think of him and all of his Majesty, power and the radiance of his splendour! There are certain things related to God like that and we are not to give them that! We’re also not to give them pearls.
EXP: Pearls. Go over to Matthew 13 for this one. Down in verse 45. Jesus in Matthew 13 He presents kingdom parables.
Matthew 13:45–46 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
This is the glorious message of the kingdom of God! The pearl of great price is the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is that message that saves from for all eternity. The pearl of great cos that we sell everything to attain is that truth that the King of the Universe came in flesh and shed His precious blood that alone has the power to save. Raised himself from the dead, and appeared to many brethren, and then went back to glory to be seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high. By many convincing proofs, He promises eternal life for His followers.
This is the pearl of great price that people lose everything for in order to gain it!
ILL: Screeching halt…so wait a second, you mean to tell me there are certain people I’m not to give the gospel to?
Matthew 7:6 6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
And those swine and dogs, are religiously hardened people who mock, get argumentative, and perhaps even violent against you.
ILL: But why not give these dogs and pigs the gospel? Remember the dogs are religious Jews who despise Jesus and would persecute you. Pigs are disgustingly horribly sinful Gentiles who would trample on the gospel and do you harm as well!
But I thought we were to preach the gospel to everyone! “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Are you going to do what is right in your own eyes? Do not give holy things to certain people! But why?
Why not? For our own benefit
For your own benefit, of course! They will turn and tear you to pieces!
So, you’ll know them by their mocking, scoffing, violent behaviour. In the first century, it took great discernment not to share the gospel with certain people b/c you might get killed for it. That would be the same way in North Korea or in many parts of China and India. In fact, for most of the world!
EXP: They would “tear you to pieces.” That word is used in Mark 9:18. And there talks about a man possessed by a demon and it seizes him and then it “slams” to the ground. A violent term.
This is difficult for us on a couple of levels. 1, we can relate to the desire not to witness to people who are going to tear us to pieces. But (2, we find it difficult that our Lord would tell us not to witness to them.
So we need some examples of this. We see it in the OT also…let me just read some of these to you…
Proverbs 9:7–8 7 He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. 8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you. [scoffers and certain notoriously wicked sinners will defile the gospel itself if you give it to them…really? Well, keep listening…]
Proverbs 23:9 9 Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, For he will despise the wisdom of your words. [He despises…do not speak in a fool’s hearing…]
Jeremiah is forbidden to pray for Judah because of her unrepentant idolatry…the LORD tells Jeremiah…
Jeremiah 7:16 16 “As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you.” The LORD was done with them and He was going to bring disaster upon them and it wasn’t even worth praying!
And what is especially fascinating is that Jesus himself did this. He fulfilled his own teaching in Matthew 10. There, He was sending His disciples out with power to heal and to cast out demons. And when they enter into a house, they were to give the people their greeting. If it’s worthy, give the blessing of peace. But if it’s not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. And whoever did not receive them they were to go out of the house or the city and shake the dust off their feet, in protest against them. And to top it all off, Jesus goes on to say that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city if they reject the gospel.
Those men weren’t to stay there and try to plead with those people to escape the torments of hell, they were to move on! There are others who will hear; preach to them!
That tells you how horrible of a sin this is, to reject the gospel! But the capstone is Jesus’ example, over in Luke 23, if you’d turn there please. Luke 23.
Here, we are in the middle of the trials of Jesus before He is convicted and crucified. This trial is Jesus before Pilate and they accuse him in verse 2 of misleading the nation, forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and that He himself said that He is a King.
Pilate would not like that. And so Pilate says to him, “are you the King of the Jews?” And He answers Pilate and says, “it is as you say.”
But Jesus goes to Herod next and Herod verse 8 was very glad when he saw Jesus because he wanted to see him for a long time because he had been hearing about him and was hoping to see some miracle performed by him.
And we learn back in Mark 6:20 that John the Baptist had already preached repentance to Herod. It says that Herod enjoyed listening to the Baptist. Well, John the Baptist preached repentance. And Herod was enjoying the messages.
And verse 9 says that Herod asked Jesus many questions, but Jesus did not answer him anything.
He enjoyed listening to John the Baptist. Here’s a man who wanted to see a miracle performed by Jesus. And why do you think he wanted to see a miracle? Who wouldn’t! What a show that would be! This is that Herod whom Jesus called a “fox.”
Jesus is here exercising discernment, “Not throwing His pearls before swine.”
After that, the disciples take Jesus’ teaching and practice it in Acts chapter 13. You could turn over there. Acts 13.
Paul and his companions are in Pisidian Antioch on a Sabbath day and Paul preaches Christ’s death and resurrection to them from their Old Testament Scriptures. And the people loved it and wanted to hear more the next Sabbath. And so on the next Sabbath, the whole city assembles to hear the word of the Lord.
But the Jews are jealous and began to contradict what Paul was saying and they were blaspheming or slandering Paul or even Jesus.
And Paul says verse 46 that “it was necessary the word of God be spoken to you first. Since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.”
And the Gentiles love it verse 48 the began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
So Paul and His companions turned from those who are rejecting the gospel, and went to those who would gladly hear it.
He did the same thing in chapter 18 when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia. And they were at Corinth. Paul was testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ, but they resisted and blasphemed. And so he said, “your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
And even in Paul’s own teaching and Titus 3:10, he says… Titus 3:10 10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning,
There comes a time when we are finished with certain individuals.
What HE does not say
Now, let us be careful here. We want to make sure that we reach out to lost people and preach the gospel to them. May the Lord guide you to know when you meet a rabid dog like this, somebody whose likely heard the gospel and would scoff at you and perhaps do you harm.
You know, you could die a martyrs death disobeying Jesus commandment. If you go looking for the most violent Gentiles and preach the gospel to them, that’s not being wise. “Wait, really?” Ok, are going to start a mission board to reach ISIS fighters? The goal is the actual spread of the gospel and preserving the preciousness of its truth.
So note 5 brief applications points in closing.
1. You must understand that there are some people who will forever despise the good news of Jesus Christ. They are apathetic, they are unappreciative, they scoff and mock, they are angry, and they may even seek to do you harm because of your witness for Jesus Christ. That is a reality.
2. Secondly, in certain contexts like that, you must guard the preciousness of the gospel by feeling out the situation. If you witness to one of these scoffers, as Proverbs calls them, and he is leading many naïve people, you may witness to him in front of his followers, and he will scoff and mock and you and then they ALL turn and tear you to pieces. Guard the preciousness of the gospel and be wise with it.
3. But third, be sure to proclaim the gospel! All this talk of guarding the gospel isn’t to hide the gospel. I think today, we are too easily persuaded by fear not to give the gospel. So this should show us how commonplace it should be to preach the gospel for a Christian. You need to share the gospel with lost people.
4. Now, fourth, be careful in your relationships. What kind of relationships are you in with those who stubbornly reject Christ. Are you in close relationships with lost people to the point where you don’t want to give out the gospel to them anymore because they have won! They scoff and mock at your testimony and so you go along with them and act like they do! Is that you, young person? I trust if you know a person like that, you’ll call them to repentance.
5. Finally, another temptation with this is to change the message. We must not change the message the good news of Jesus Christ to make it more flavorful for scoffers. Archibald Brown in 1889 wrote a book entitled, “The devil’s mission of amusement.” And he had a title of one article in that book called, “feeding sheep or amusing goats.”
This is all the way back in 1889! If you can picture, entertainment being an issue back then! Churches are providing entertainment in the form of dance, the world’s music, and entertainments and bringing them into the church, which is for sheep!
Don’t change the message! We hold our tongue before mockers and scoffers of the gospel, we don’t entertain them in the church.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Matthew 7.6
We must admit that it is a little strange to be spoken to about to whom not to give your pearls. Until we realize…Matthew 10:16 16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”
We need discernment when we preach the gospel! 698 Go ye into all the world
D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: An Exposition of Matthew 5–10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999), 112–113. ↑