Scripture Reading: Matthew 7:1-12 (NRSV)
The Sermon on the Mount can seem contradicting at times – no more so than in today’s reading. We begin with “Do not judge…” and then in verse six we move to calling people dogs and swine.
This Portland art piece by Andy Rosen
gives a better view of how first century
Middle Easterners looked at dogs.
Since a pig was an unclean animal and dogs were associated with eating the dead (which would make them unclean in a secondary sense), these were not terms conveying admiration. The structure of the sentence reads contempt.
Jesus is referencing holiness and wisdom.
While the first verses on judgment could reference “Blessed are the meek” we could see verse six refer to being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Or maybe this advice is how to avoid being persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
While verses 1-5 and 6 are often broken by a heading, maybe they are meant to flow together. I’ve heard verse six quoted in the singular but maybe Matthew structures it to follow as it does so that we do not take this bit of wisdom lightly.
Isn’t the outcome of verse six exactly what happens to Jesus on the cross?
God has given what is holy to the dogs and thrown pearls before swine and has been crucified for the effort.
So as we are having difficulty with discernment – is this a dog or a child of God? – we must remember to ask God as in the continued instruction. We are not asking for something for ourselves as we often imagine but we are asking for clarity on human relations. Is this person a pig? What would God’s response be?
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Maybe this is not so contradictory after all.
Prayer for the day:
God, human relationships can be difficult.
Often when we extend an olive branch, we are rebuked for our good faith.
It is easy to feel trampled under foot.
So we ask for your grace to heal us.
We search for a way to extend forgiveness.
We knock on the door of reconciliation.
And we believe that you will give us these good gifts.
Photo by Don Shall via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.