Tag Archives: ravenous

The Sermon, part 23: Dogs and Pigs

Read Matthew 7:6

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.” (Matthew 7:13 NLT)

pigsandpearlsHere, in Matthew 7:6, we have yet another obscure saying from Jesus, who uses shocking language that often confuses and befuddles his audience. Its not the overall point of the statement, or what seems to be the overall point, that is shocking; rather, it is the “name calling” that is shocking. It is quite clear that Jesus isn’t talking about literal dogs or pigs but is using those terms to describe unholy people. Why would Jesus use such language? It’s not the only time that he did, either. In Matthew 15:27, Jesus used the word “dog” toward a Canaanite woman as well.

Why would Jesus call people pigs? There is absolutely no parallel to this anywhere else in the New Testament. What is up with the use of dogs and pigs? It seems that the answer, as is usually the case, is not all that clear. What is clear is that, in Matthew 7:6, Jesus is not using the term dogs in the same way as he was toward the Canaanite woman. In that passage, the woman was pleading for help and he told her that he had come for the people of Israel, not for Gentiles. He uses “children” to describe Israel and “dogs” to describe Gentiles, in order to make the point that one first feeds their children before they throw what is left to the ravenous dogs.

That brings me to another important point. When you hear dogs, try to take off your 21st century lenses and put on your 1st century glasses. In 1st century Judea, dogs were not cute, lovable pets. They were seen as wild, unruly, ravenous, and dangerous animals that were prowling the streets looking for whatever they could scavenge and sink their teeth into. Like Jesus’ allusion to wolves, his use of the word “dogs” was intended to evoke images of dangerous creatures that could charge you at any minute and turn you into their next meal.

Pigs, on the other hand, are considered to be unclean in Judaism. They are forbidden by Torah to be use for food, and must be avoided at all costs. To come in contact with a pig and/or to eat it would make one unclean, and there were even prohibitions against breeding pigs. What’s more, pigs are known for being in the mud, so to throw one’s pearls before swine is to throw one’s pearls into the mud.

Now that the basics have been laid out above, let’s try and make sense of what Jesus is saying here. The focus of Jesus’ message in verse 6 is holiness. Jesus is warning his disciples to keep in mind their own holiness. To be holy is to be set apart for God and God alone. It is so easy to sell out our beliefs and our values in order to fit in and go with the flow. Yet, the only guarantee we have is in God, who promised to be with us always. Yet the easy way, the most comfortable way, often leads to our own destruction. The easy path usually ends up betraying and imprisoning us, leading us to a dead end. The people and the things we end up compromising our values for, more often than not, turn on us like a pack of ravenous, wild dogs.

If we value ourselves and our relationship with God, it makes no sense to compromise those things anymore than it makes sense to take one’s pearls and throw them into the muddy pig pen. Rather, we should invest ourselves in what is valuable, and steer clear from the dogs and pigs. By steer clear, I do not mean shun, ignore, or judge. The last devotion is clear on where Jesus stands on judging. By steer clear, I mean to not put one’s hope in what is hopeless, and to not compromise one’s values and beliefs by settling for comfort and complacency.

We were created by God to be holy, to be set apart for God and for the Kingdom of God. Our call is to invest ourselves in God, as well as in God’s Kingdom. Jesus did that, and he did not settle for the easy road. I think it is safe to say that the road to calvary IS NEVER EASY, but it is the only way to the resurrection. It is the only way to eternal life. We must be willing to die to what is unholy in us, and we must be willing to let go of our foolish investment in what is unholy around us in order to take that journey with Christ.

What does that mean exactly? That means that each of us should be investing ourselves in seeking out Christ, and seeking out the purpose Christ has put before us. What is that purpose? To spread the love, the peace, the hope, the healing, and the wholeness of God. Our purpose is to stand up for justice and to live justly. Our purpose is to LOVE and to always show mercy. Our purpose is to walk humbly with God. All other paths lead to a dead end, but the road to calvary, the road to the cross, leads to the Kingdom of God and eternal life.

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” – William Shakespeare
Lord, help me see clear the distinction between the dead end highway and the road to Calvary. Amen.