Exploring Philosophy, Meaning

Proverbs: Pearls Before Swine…

‘Don’t cast pearls before swine.’

This proverb is an adaptation of a line from the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament of the Bible. That text reads “Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine…” (Matthew 7:6, KJV). In its original context, most people believe that it means that the gospel, the word of God and all that is holy, will not be valued by everyone. Some believe that Jesus was warning his disciples against preaching to those who do not know, or refuse to acknowledge the value of the gospel. He was warning against sharing what is holy with those who only wished to ridicule and blaspheme.

Its origins lie in the religious, but this proverb can easily be understood in a more general sense as well.

Firstly, we should realise that not everyone puts value in the same things we do. Not everyone appreciates what is precious. Therefore, we should think carefully about who we trust with what is dear to us. For example- who we give our love to, our loyalty to, our time to. Or perhaps who we try to help, who we share our passions and dreams with, etc. By ‘casting our pearls’ before those who have no intention of understanding or appreciating, we are reducing what is precious and putting it in harm’s way. There’s a sense that it is our responsibility to protect what is valuable from those who would ‘trample them under their feet.’

Notoriously, Jesus preached to the sinners and more unpopular members of the community.

So this proverb is not suggesting that we be judgemental in the negative sense of the word. It’s more about being able to discern those who have no wish to engage, understand or accept and to move on with our pearls intact. Jesus said “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet” (Matthew 10:14, KJV). We’re advised not to cast judgement upon people, but to act judiciously when dealing with what is valuable.

Carl Bloch, 1877, Sermon on the Mount
Carl Bloch, 1877, Sermon on the Mount
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