Today’s reading brings together two or three unrelated sayings of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus often used proverbs and folk sayings to drive his message home. This Gospel text is a good example. In its original form, it probably ran:
Give not the holy to dogs, lest they tear you;
Nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them.
In Matthew, this saying most probably refers to the proclamation of the Gospel, and so the ‘dogs’ and ‘swine’ are those members of the Jewish establishment who are most hostile to hearing it. The disciples should remember that not everyone wants to hear the ‘good news’ of the kingdom: some seed does fall on barren ground, some places will make the disciple shake the dust off their slippers. Still, do not get discouraged!
The next passage is an enunciation of what is known as the ‘Golden Rule’: “Always treat others as you would like them to treat you.” It has existed in other religious traditions too, notably Judaism. As one of the great scholars, Rabbi Hillel, put it: “This is the whole Law. The rest is just commentary.”
The third selection relates to the common question, “Will I be saved? How many will be saved?”, an anxiety which afflicts all of us at some time or other. Jesus replies that the “gate to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few find it; whereas the road to perdition is wide and spacious…” To choose salvation is always to choose an unpopular path. It means being disciplined and focused. It often means a lonely trek uphill.
Unlike the “road to hell, which is paved with good intentions, and crowded with folk who take their ease.”