Pigs and Pearls

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Having just referred to St. Aug’s comment re: “men’s souls hang on your gifts” and quoting the prophet Isaiah about pouring out “that with which you sustain your own life to feed the hungry and to satisfy the need of the afflicted”, Jesus’ somewhat uncomplimentary metaphor warning us to “not cast your pearls before swine” seems, at first glance, a bit harsh to our 21st century sensibilities.  No doubt, it was to 1st century ears also, particularly considering the religious and social context of the day.

Here’s how I unpack it—

A short take: Everyone has influence, period.  Everyone has a “hidden congregation” that’s watching and learning.  They need what you have to give, which makes each of us responsible for finding out just what that is, and start giving it, even if we don’t know who “they” are yet.  However, pearls take many years to form, and are an organic result of an irritation inside the shell.  Therefore, they are more fragile than, say, a diamond.   Which means you have gifts (sometimes born of inconvenience, irritation, or downright pain) that you might not even be aware of yet, experiences that others need, talents gained, hardships overcome.  Jesus considers these things precious when placed under His care, and He knows who needs them.

Secondly, since they are precious (and admittedly, sometimes fragile), these gifts must be respected and treated with care.  This is where heavenly wisdom is sorely needed.  I see young teenagers giving their hearts and bodies away before they can barely read and write coherently.  I see parents wasting their children’s childhood on drugs and alcohol, or on too many meetings at work (or church!) In these ways and more, pearls are crushed under muddy hooves.

And just a tangent thought: Jesus’ “casting pearls” comment also appears somewhat paradoxical, when compared with the whole “give up your life to find it” idea.  That is one of the many things I love about the Bible.  Like David Limbaugh so endearingly puts it in his book, Jesus on Trial, the paradoxes, the seeming contradictions in the Bible, are invitations to dig deeper to resolve them and thus, far from smashing our faith against the rocks of unanswered questions…

… they serve to help us walk on the water more confidently with Him who holds our hands.

If….then

Choices…consequences.  If I eat too much chocolate, then I get fat(ter).  If I pull the car into the garage too fast like my husband has repeatedly warned me against, then I rip off the mirror, busting the window into a gazillion shards of glass, costing us hundreds of dollars, and having to call my husband to tell him that I pulled the car into the garage too fast…again.  You know, things like that.

We live and breathe if/then’s.  Of course, we’re in good company–even our stone age ancestors had to learn that fire was good in some ways…and not so good in others.

Here’s one of my fave’s that’s really worth chewing on.  It’s a quote from the book of the prophet Isaiah:

“And if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your obscurity and gloom become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10 Amplified Bible)

What do I sustain myself, my very heart and soul with?  Okay, money is always a good indicator about where our hearts are, and I’m in total agreement that no matter how little one has, some of it has to be given away to help someone else.  But how about the other things “with which I sustain myself”?

A big one for me is time.  Is my life so full of chores and projects and responsibilities that I don’t have time to pause and listen to a friend in need? Or is a child’s hug somehow an interruption?

Another one is talent and personal skill set.  Can you make music? Sing? Build a wall (or a new drum “cage”, as the case may be in our church)?  Can you make people laugh?  Cook?  Okay, maybe these aren’t the things with which you bring home the bacon, but not everything of true value is recognized on Wall Street.

I think it was St. Augustine that said “men’s souls hang on your gifts”.  Jesus, Himself, warns us not to bury what He has given us, but to invest it wisely.  IF we pour out (not dribble, by the way) these things to help those in need–not just physically, but emotionally, spiritually, relationally–THEN our own personal clouds begin to dissipate as well.  Interesting paradox, this whole “losing my life to find it” thing.

If I get up at 3:30AM to write this post, then I’ll probably need to sleep in.  Good thing it’s Saturday….

NIghty night……….dawnlizjones