Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pearls Before Swine

This is a response to a vocal ministry I gave this past week. I would very much like to know your thoughts and life experiences. I'm sure there are some very rich, very enlightening stories that would encourage everyone's comprehension and contribution.

First of all, here are the two Scriptural passage to which I made reference. Both are from the Gospel of Matthew.

1. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with such scum?"

2. The next comes from the Sermon on the Mount. Don't waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don't throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.

How do we reconcile both passages? The Jesus of the first passage deliberately places himself in the company of swine, of unholy, unredeemable people. He believes that salvation is for everyone, especially those who are social outcasts. The Jesus of the second passage issues a warning for those who would try to heal or enlighten those with nefarious intentions. As Quakers, we often give people the benefit of the doubt and pride ourselves for the work we do for those who society often deems wasted effort. This has left us open for criticism that we're little more than naive do-gooders.

In a film released in the early 1960's called Viridiana, the Spanish director Luis Buñuel uses the character of an idealistic nun to advance his narrative. She seeks to feed and provide for the poor of her village, only to find that they take advantage of her good graces time and time again.

Does our good work depend only on circumstances and proper discernment? How much control do we really have over our fate? Many of us work in helping professions, with lofty and idealistic intentions. I know many Peace Corps alumnus, or those who have spent lots of time overseas in pursuit of helping the poor or underprivileged.

It seems that our life experiences make a great deal of difference in how we separate potential harm from the opportunity for service. Should we be cautious of who we intend to help while at the same time using our intuition to know where our services are needed? If so, how do we learn this sort of insight?

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