In light of my twenty-fifth birthday, I planned to post one of those super trendy “twenty-five lessons I learned in twenty-five years” sort of posts. It seemed like a great idea, and I certainly have learned enough lessons to pick and choose and post twenty-five of the best.
But I don’t want to be super trendy and cool. I want to be real. I want to be raw. I want to be vulnerable.
Mostly, I want to be me.
While a list of twenty-five things, shortened into one sentence, may be meaningful to some, and perhaps make a difference in a life or two, it’s not what’s burning in my heart. What is, however, is the lesson that has taken me the longest to learn, but is making the biggest impact in my life on a daily basis.
There’s a lovely verse in the book of Matthew, chapter seven.
Do not give to dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and attack you.
Before I delve into the depths of my thoughts, I must clarify my awareness of the context of this passage. My intention is not to alter the meaning or context, but rather to add to it my own life altering realization.
With that said, my heart is now being exposed.
I was exercising with a dear friend and we began sharing stories of things we were walking through that particular week. For whatever reason, I shared with her concerning my journey towards healthy boundaries- a journey that has seen more valleys than peaks, but in the recent days has accelerated upward in a way I never imagined possible.
As I was talking about specific ways I am working to guard my heart and have healthy and God-honoring relationships, she affirmed my thoughts, stating, “Yea, it’s that whole ‘pearls before swine’ thing.”
YES. INSTANT YES.
Naturally, being the long and drawn out processor that I am, I meditated on this for quite some time. Within the context of the passage, as Jesus is speaking to the disciples, we often unpack this teaching as it refers to the unbeliever. After our conversation, however, I began asking the Lord how this passage applies to interactions within the body of Christ. After all, people are people, and as the imperfect will not cease until the Perfect One returns, neither will the issues of relating to people.
And that is exactly what Jesus is referring to beginning in the first verse of the chapter.
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
He sets the stage for His instruction by providing a balance for the disciples to live in. John R. W. Stott explains it like this:
“The context provides a healthy balance. If we are not to ‘judge’ others, finding fault with them in a censorious, condemning or hypocritical way, we are not to ignore their faults either and pretend that everybody is the same. Both extremes are to be avoided. The saints are not judges, but ‘saints are not simpletons’ either. If we first remove the log from our eye and thus see clearly to take a speck from our brother’s eye, he (if he is a true brother in the Lord) will appreciate our concern. But not everyone is grateful for criticism and correction.” (Sermon on the Mount, Emphasis mine)
So, what exactly does all of this mean? What is a pearl? And is it really okay to refer to someone as a pig?
It’s like this: My heart is a pearl. It is a precious thing, meant to be treasured. It’s tender and it is sensitive. It’s weak at times, and sometimes it’s strong. It’s young and free, but it’s growing each day. It’s vulnerable and it’s raw, and it’s beautiful. Yes, it’s beautiful.
And the pig? The pig is anything that tramples on those things. The pig is that which seeks to destroy the pearl, rather than protect it. It is anything that seeks to kill rather than bring life. It is anything that longs to steal rather than to give. It is that which rejects rather than receiving or affirming.
The fact is, it is the very nature of the pearl to bless. It’s beautiful. It’s one-of-a-kind. It’s breathtaking. All these things are obvious to the one catching a glimpse, yet what is not obvious is the long-suffering that brought the pearl to that place. The beauty was not formed in a day. Every pearl has a story of how it matured, and that story and all its chapters, and all the lessons included are meant to be cherished.
The one who cannot do such a thing is, unfortunately, the pig. And Jesus clearly, yet kindly, instructs us not to share the pearl with the pig.
If you are anything like me, this is probably difficult to swallow. As one who loves to give to the nth degree, and never stop pouring out, an instruction to withhold is gut wrenching. But here’s the thing, if our hearts are meant to be valued, we must learn to do just that for ourselves. After all, Jesus called us to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we belittle ourselves, and devalue our hearts, we are setting the stage to do the same to those around us, which is the very opposite of God’s heart. How can we love others and show honor and respect if we cannot love and honor ourselves?
It’s simple. We can’t.
It’s easy to think that having boundaries is rude, or that it is selfish, or that it is heartless.
The truth? Having boundaries is having love.
Beloved, choose love- for yourself, and for those in your life.
Your pearls were not made for pigs.