St. Augustine gives us a very strange principle to understand the phrase of Jesus about not casting our pearl before swine. “We must be careful not to reveal anything to one who cannot bear it, for it is better that one make a search for what is concealed than assail or despise what is revealed.” How are we to understand this in the context of Evangelization. Jesus gives us the image of the Word of God that is almost and seemingly carelessly scattered everywhere: good soil, rocky soil, the road, etc. He contrasts this image with the pearl: something valuable that ought not be given away easily. When we are sent to bring the good news to people, it is the Word of God itself that we should sow liberally. We ought not distribute as liberally how the Word has become a treasure in our hearts personally. If we reveal to others how suffering and toil with the Word have caused it to become the treasure of our hearts, they may reject it and – because it exposes our vulnerability – injure us in the process. The Word of God is different, it is God Himself who speaks and if we communicate that Word to others, He Himself bears the brunt of any insult or rejection. Pearls are reserved for those who already believe but struggle and find it difficult.
Prayer sometimes brings the dead back to life, but sometimes it may slay the living, as happened with the godly Peter: he brought Tabitha back to life by prayer, but he effected the death of Ananias and Sapphira. Elisha, that spiritual man, brought to life the young son of the Shunammite woman, but he brought to their end the wicked children, through the bears that he brought out against them with the course. The case of Hezekiah was also astonishing: through prayer he added to the days of his life as king and routed the mighty army of the Assyrians with the help of a spiritual being.1
When eyes are ascribed to God, it is implied that he sees all things; an ear, to show that he hears all things; a finger, to reveal a certain signification of the will; nostrils, to show that he is aware of our prayers as one is of odors; hands, to prove that he is the author of every created thing; an arm, to make it known that no nature can resist his power; and finally feet, to make it clear that he fills all things and that there is no thing in which God is not.2
The Lord’s goodness is immense, and frequently he finds his way to grant the salvation of the majority on account of a few just people. Why do I say on account of a few just people? Frequently, when a just person cannot be found in the present life, he takes pity on the living on account of the virtue of the departed and cries aloud in the words, “I will protect this city for my own sake and the sake of my servant David.” Even if they do not deserve to be saved, he is saying, and have no claim on salvation, yet since showing love is habitual with me and I am prompt to have pity and rescue them from disaster, for my own sake and the sake of my servant David I will act as a shield; he who passed on from this life many years before will prove the salvation of those who have fallen victim to their own indifference.3
At any rate, the present instruction is one that was most apt for the occasion when he was expounding the precepts that pertain to singleness of heart. For there might be reason to fear that a person may have a double heart toward another, since the matters of the heart are hidden. But there is hardly anyone who would wish that others would deal double-heartedly with oneself. It is impossible for one to render service single-heartedly to another unless one renders it in such a way that one looks for no temporal advantage from it. And one cannot do this unless one is motivated by the kind of intention that we have sufficiently discussed earlier, when we were speaking about the eye that is single.4
He says this not because the Lord’s yoke is rough or his burden heavy but because there are a few who wish their labors to end. They do not put their full trust in the Lord when he cries, “Come to me, all you who labor, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.… For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Hence the humble and the meek of heart are named at the very beginning of this sermon. But because there are many who spurn this smooth yoke and this light burden, it comes to pass that the way that leads to life is demanding and the entry gate is narrow.5
It is not only on the way that the things of excellence become easy. In the end they become even more agreeable. For it is not just the passing away of toil and sweating but also the anticipated arrival at a pleasant destination that is sufficient to encourage the traveler. For this road ends in life! The result is that both the temporary nature of the toils and the eternal nature of the victor’s crowns, combined with the fact that these toils come first and the victor’s crowns come afterward, become a hearty encouragement.6
- BOOK OF PERFECTION 41. Conti, M., & Pilara, G. (Eds.). (2008). 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (p. 220). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ON THE TRINITY 6.6. Conti, M., & Pilara, G. (Eds.). (2008). 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (p. 220). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILIES ON GENESIS 42.24. Conti, M., & Pilara, G. (Eds.). (2008). 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (p. 220). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON ON THE MOUNT 2.22.75. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 151). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON ON THE MOUNT 2.23.77. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 152). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 23.5. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 153). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.