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Unclean Pigs

by Tim O'Hearn

“And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.” (Lev 11:7)

Are you an unclean pig? I’m not asking if you live like a pig, nor even if you eat like one. When it comes to giving, are you a pig? Let me explain.

You may have heard of someone “hogging the spotlight.” He wants all the glory for himself. Likewise if one is hogging anything, he is being a pig. He may or may not have a right to it; he is still being a pig about it. Yet there is an interpretation of being a pig about giving that comes from the verse above.

The pig is singled out as the only animal that has a split hoof but does not chew the cud. (This would be the general group of all pigs, including the common swine, the peccary, and the hippopotamus.) In Hebrew, the word parsah is translated “hoof” in this verse. It is also a unit of distance. The word gerah, here translated “cud,” is also an extremely small unit of currency. So a pig may be considered one who divides the distance but does not re-chew the smallest bit of money. What does that mean?

Here in the American Southwest we don’t have a lot of people who ride taxicabs, and those that do often have to call the dispatcher to have them sent to a specific location. In places where they are more common, however, or at the airport where they line up for business, some people may hail a taxi at the same time. If they are going the same direction they may decide to share the ride. Often the first one out will offer to pay a portion of his part of the ride. Most people would take a reasonable amount and figure they came out ahead because they didn’t have to pay the whole amount. An unclean pig, on the other hand, is so greedy that he insists on the other person paying the full amount of that part of the ride, even if he is only going a few blocks further. He splits the distance, to his own advantage. This is the person who takes the whole restaurant tab and divides it evenly among all at the table, and insists everyone pay his share to the penny. We have words for such a person. The kinder word is penny-pincher; the truer word is miser.

What is chewing the cud except getting the most use out of the food an animal eats? As revolting as it sounds to humans, what goes into the stomach goes back out and is put into circulation again. That is the plan for money, as well. The way to get the most out of money is to put it into circulation. Keeping it out of circulation hurts the economy, and does little good for the individual who hoards it. Even putting it in the bank for interest is getting it into circulation. The human pig, though, does not chew the cud; he does not keep his money in circulation. He is like the wicked servant who said, “I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.” (Matt 25:25) Not only did he not make money, he lost what he had. This kind of pig loses more than money. He stands to lose his soul as well.

God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:7) He loves such a one so much that he gives us all multiple opportunities to be cheerful givers. To see those opportunities we have to have our heads out of the mud and look more toward the stars. We can choose to be clean, to give what we can, or we can be unclean pigs. “Would you like to swing on a star? Or would you rather be a pig?”*

*Copyright 1944, Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen