Reader Question: Throwing Pearls to Swine (Matthew 7:6)

A reader asks: “We hear a lot about Matthew 7:1-5 regarding a log in your eye, but not much about verse 6. What is that talking about and how does it relate to the earlier verses?” Mark D. Taylor, CEO of Tyndale House Publishers and Director and Chief Stylist for the New Living Translation Bible Translation Committee, agreed to share his thoughts on this topic.

Good questions! Let’s take a look.

First of all, the series of teachings in Matthew 5-7 is often called the Sermon on the Mount. But the text in this extended section probably does not reflect everything Jesus said at that time. Rather, Matthew has organized it as a series of teachings on various topics. Any specific topic does not necessarily relate to the topics before or after it.

For example, the pericope (short section) in 7:1-5 relates to the hypocrisy of judging others when we have sin in our own lives. And isn’t the metaphor of a log in the eye wonderfully descriptive?!

Then we find the pericope (7:6) about throwing pearls to pigs. How does it relate to the previous verses? Scholars have differing opinions on that issue. My perspective is that the two passages are not specifically related to each other. Verse 6 uses metaphoric language. Here’s a very literal translation, as found in the NRSV:

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.

The NLT provides a dynamic translation of “dogs” as meaning “people who are unholy.” And as it often does, the NLT footnote provides a more literal translation.

Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy.* Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.
            7:6 Greek don’t give the sacred to dogs.

Jesus is giving very practical advice, though it is presented in very colorful and poetic language. We can easily imagine how silly it would be to throw a string of expensive pearls to a herd of pigs. The pearls would be destroyed and the pigs would not be the least bit appreciative. In the dietary laws of the Old Testament, pigs and dogs were both considered unclean (Lev. 11:7, 27). So Jesus uses dogs as a metaphor for people who are unclean, or sinful. He is telling his listeners—including us today—that it is useless to give what is holy to people who are unholy.

The notes in the Life Application Study Bible make this application at Matt. 7:6: “Jesus says that we should not entrust holy teachings to unholy or unclean people. It is futile to try to teach holy concepts to people who don’t want to listen and will only tear apart what we say. We should not stop giving God’s Word to unbelievers, but we should be wise and discerning in our witnessing, so that we will not be wasting our time.”

If you have a question let us know in the comments or reach out on our social media pages. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We will try to answer your questions here on the blog.

The Holy Spirit’s Presence

Learn more about the power and presence of the Holy Spirit from the Illustrated Study Bible.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8, NLT

The book of Acts clearly highlights the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Before the coming of the Spirit, Jesus spoke of the Spirit’s influence on the growth of the church (1:8; see John 14:15‑17, 26; 15:26; 16:7‑15). The Spirit’s guidance was clear in the selection of Spirit-filled leaders to care for the needs of the Hellenistic widows (Acts 6:1‑7) and in the appointing of Barnabas and Saul for missionary service (13:1‑5). When the first church council met to consider the membership of Gentiles in the church, those present followed the Spirit’s direction (15:28). Christian workers such as Stephen and Philip were filled with the Spirit and preached by his power (6:1–8:40), and Paul’s ministry was charged with the Spirit’s energy from the beginning (9:17). In Acts, the growth, development, and expansion of the church took place entirely under the guidance and power of the Spirit (e.g., 2:4, 41‑47; 4:31; 5:32; 8:15, 17, 29; 9:31). Because of the prominence of the Spirit’s work in Acts, the book has often been called “the Acts of the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit works in many ways. He gives and restores life (Gen 2:7; Ps 104:24‑30; Ezek 37:1‑14; Joel 2:28‑32; Rom 8:9‑11). He calls and commissions workers for the service of Christ (Acts 13:2; 20:28) and guides God’s servants where and when he wants, to do as he desires (8:29; 9:15; 10:19‑20; 11:12; 16:6; 1 Cor 2:13; 1 Pet 1:12). He inspired the writing of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16‑17; 2 Pet 1:20‑21), instructing the church in Christ’s message (John 14:26; 1 Cor 12:3). He bears witness to the power of the Good News in signs and wonders (Acts 14:3; Heb 2:4), and teaches the truths of the Bible to God’s people (Acts 1:16; Heb 9:8; 10:15‑17; 1 Pet 1:11‑12). He bears witness to Jesus and brings him glory (John 15:26; 16:14). He convicts people of their sinfulness and need for the Good News (John 16:8) and warns people against hardening their hearts (Heb 3:7‑11, 15). He bestows gifts upon God’s people (1 Cor 12:4‑11), and he energizes and equips them to share the Good News, serve the Lord, and work for the Kingdom of God.

Learn more about the Illustrated Study Bible


Radical Lifestyle Change

For Jesus’ disciples following him meant leaving everything else behind. We don’t know a lot about their personal lives and what they left behind, but what we do know is they had to leave it all behind and make a radical lifestyle change to follow Him. Read these passages from Luke and then the Exploration Point from the Wayfinding Bible and consider what you are willing to give up to follow Jesus.

Luke 5:1-11, NLT

“One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee,*  great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon,*  its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.’ And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, ‘Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.’ For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!’ And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.”

Luke 5:27-32, NLT

“Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me and be my disciple,’ Jesus said to him. So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him. Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, ‘Why do you eat and drink with such scum?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.’

Exploration Point from the Wayfinding Bible

“Following Jesus came at a cost. Peter himself was a working fisherman, yet he hauled up his boat and put down his nets to give his attention to this amazing teacher. For the twelve men closest to Jesus, discipleship required them to sacrifice careers and their families. They left their homes and followed Jesus all over the countryside and into Jerusalem. They were now completely focused on learning from Jesus – a very different kind of life. Would we be willing to make radical lifestyle changes in order to follow Jesus?”

Look Inside the Wayfinding Bible


Humble Prayers

God calls us to humble ourselves before Him and this includes when we come to Him in prayer. Read from the Thrive Journaling Devotional Bible for Women about finding the courage to humble ourselves and pray.

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Love Letter from God

Beloved Daughter,

You are My child, and I love to answer you. There is great power in humility and prayer. Real change starts in your heart, permeates your home, and then echoes throughout the world. You have the ability to lift up anything in prayer, and I will hear you. You also have the gift of repentance, and in one prayer you can make yourself right with Me. I will forgive you, and that blessing will affect not only you but also the people around you. Don’t ever give in to hopelessness or sin. I have given you the power to live above such things. Walk with Me, bring everything to Me in prayer, and watch My mighty hand move in your life.


Your heavenly Father


We tend to blame everything and everyone in this world for the condition that we are in, but our first response must be instead to humble ourselves and pray. According to God’s promise, He will then heal the land in which His children live, starting with their own hearts.

Treasure of Truth

Our humility and prayer invite God’s forgiveness and restoration.

Look inside the Thrive Bible

Reader Question: Is there a difference between being born again and being saved?

We received another excellent question on our Facebook page and wanted to share it with you.  This question was about the difference between being born again and being saved. Mark D. Taylor, CEO of Tyndale House Publishers and Director and Chief Stylist for the New Living Translation Bible Translation Committee, agreed to share his thoughts on this topic.

Question: “Is there a difference between being born again and being saved?”

Answer from Mark D. Taylor:

Good question! To find an answer, let’s look to the New Testament, where we find both terms.

In John 3:1-7 we read:

There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God.”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’

Nicodemus thought Jesus was talking about a physical rebirth, but Jesus was talking about spiritual birth. We have all been born physically, but Jesus wants us to be born again, that is, to have a spiritual birth.

The Greek word that is translated “born again” is also found in 1 Peter 1:3 and 1:23:

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. . . .

For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.

Peter, who had been one of Jesus’ disciples, is saying that all who believe in Jesus as the Son of God have been born again.

The word “saved” is found many times in the New Testament. Let’s look at two examples in Acts 16:25-31, where we read about Paul and Silas having been imprisoned in Philippi:

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.”

We can see from these sets of passages that being “born again” is the same as “being saved.” Both terms refer to the spiritual process of being accepted into God’s family.

If you have a question let us know in the comments or reach out on our social media pages. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We will try to answer some here on the blog.