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Set Others Up for Success

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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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.

Matthew 7:

They’ve been judging dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club since 1877. Out of the 2,711 dogs in the 2015 show, the winner was a Beagle named Miss P. In Jesus’ day there were no such honors for dogs. To the contrary, dogs were wild scavengers to be avoided. And pigs were so unclean they were on the Jew’s “do not eat” list.

This verse about pigs and dogs brings to mind these familiar sayings:

Don’t put a fox in charge of the chicken coop.
Don’t ask a thief to guard the bank vault.

Here’s how I think Jesus might have phrased it:

Don’t put a fox in charge of the chicken coop—and then judge the fox for eating the chickens.
Don’t ask a thief to guard the bank vault—and then judge the thief for taking the money

Or more directly to our passage,

Don’t give pearls to pigs—and then judge the pigs when they trample them.
Don’t give what is holy to dogs—and then judge the dogs when they turn and maul you.

Don’t expect what is unreasonable from others. When you do and they fail, you are as much at fault as they are. If you take a toddler to a lecture on quantum physics, don’t get upset if the little tyke makes a fuss. The fault is much more yours than the child’s.

As Jesus was sending his disciples off on their first missionary journey he told them, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town” (Matt. 10:14).

Terri and I were traveling through France. We were befriended by another American couple who invited us to join them for dinner. At one point the woman asked for a banana, but the waiter didn’t speak English and didn’t understand. But this woman was certain that if she said “Banana” often enough, loud enough, slowly enough, and with a French accent, surely the waiter would eventually get it. He didn’t. So she didn’t leave a tip. Whose fault was it?

In this brief and rather cryptic verse Jesus lays down two truths.

  1. Don’t be surprised at the way people will sometimes disrespect the holiest treasures in your life.
  2. In response, don’t expect from others what they can’t give. When you do, the fault is with you.

As often as possible and to the extent it’s up to you, don’t provoke others, but do your best to bring out what is best in them and in you.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What are some of the “holy treasures” and “pearls of great price” in your life? Describe a time when you were in over your head and unreasonable things were being expected of you. How can you begin to sense when you’ve gone far enough and expected as much as you should from another person when discussing a delicate subject?

PRAYER: Almighty God, when people disrespect things that I love it triggers all sorts of responses in me. Often times I feel hurt, I get defensive, I try to convince people to see things my way. When I begin to cross the line and to expect from others what they can’t give, please tap me on the shoulder and remind me to back off so as not to bring out the worst in myself and in them. Amen.

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Dave Peterson is an ordained pastor who is the Director of Community Outreach for The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and Scholarly Advisor for the H. E. Butt Family Foundation. He is the author of Receiving and Giving, Unleashing the Bless Challenge in Your Life. Dave and his wife, Terri, have four adult children and four grandchildren. Send a note to Dave.

Spiritual Disciplines

What if spiritual discipline is easier than we think it is? In his book Celebration of Discipline Richard Foster offers this list of spiritual disciplines: meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.

That list can look like a mountain to climb and a setup for failure. We start to ask questions like: What spiritual disciplines should I practice in my work life? Does prayer make a difference in my work life? Does a Christian layperson really need to read the Bible everyday? We wonder how to fit spiritual disciplines into our lives with so many deadlines and meetings and expectations and budgets. Wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air to discover the Holy Spirit at work, even here, even without working so hard to bring the Spirit with us everywhere? We hope this series on Spiritual Disciplines gives you freedom and a little more space to breathe.

Featured image by Mary Anne Morgan. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.

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