Monday, August 13, 2012

"Shaking Dust Off Feet"--Turning Over to Condemnation

"And if anyone will not welcome you or refuses to listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet..." (Matthew 10:14 NIV).

Jesus is giving instructions to His disciples on how to deal with people who give a proverbial 'cold shoulder'  by withholding basic human hospitality ('will not welcome you') or coldly cutting off communication ('refuses to listen to your words'). In context, Jesus' disciples were intent on sharing the good news of the kingdom, receiving into personal fellowship all those who called Jesus their Lord. But Jesus knew that some would not warmly receive His disciples and would refuse to even listen to what they had to say. Jesus gave precise instructions as to how his disciples were to respond to those who would act in this manner.

Jesus said, "Shake the dust off your feet."

Most of us have absolutely no idea what Jesus was saying because we have little or no understanding of first century Jewish expressions. Listen to what the Hebrew linguist and the great Jewish scholar John Gill says about this particular idiom:

"The Jews believed that even the dust of a heathen and wicked country contaminated them. To "shake the dust off your feet" was the Jewish way of signifying that they would have nothing more to do with those who would not welcome the people of God, or anything more to say to to those who refused to listen to their message. By shaking the dust off their feet, the Jews looked upon those who acted in this manner as impure and unholy, as they would any heathen city or country. Jesus is alluding to this custom when He speaks to His disciples. He is instructing them that there will come a time when they will need to "shake the dust off their feet"  in their desire to communicate with others.  By this act, they testify that the very dust they shake off their feet will rise up in judgment against them, and declare that though the good news of God's grace has been proclaimed among them, they have rjected both the messenger and the message, and as a result, will find an aggravation to their condemnation."
I am not sure I have ever had to think of shaking dust off my feet and it makes me wonder if (1). I have not pursued people enough to risk being given the cold shoulder, or (2). My mind is too pre-conditioned to accept people unconditionally without thought or respect to their response to either me or my message, or (3). I, like many Christians, simply ignore the difficult words of Jesus. Sometimes I wonder if I read the Scriptures more interested in receiving what Jesus gives than I am obeying what Jesus says.

It would seem to me that if a pastor or another Christian in authority will not warmly receive you or listen to your words..."Shake the dust off your feet." If a person withholds hospitality and refuses to even let you speak... "Shake the dust off your feet."  Don't be bothered. Don't get angry. Don't get even. "Shake the dust off your feet." The Lord is much wiser and far better equipped to hold the guilty accountable. The manner in which people receive God's children is the manner in which He will receive them.


Wade Burleson said...


This post is for you. Don't even think twice of leaving your church. You have gone several times to your pastor and requested help in putting a stop to the verbal and emotional abuse. The last meeting you had, where you were rudely told to "come back when you actually have something to complain about" is a sign that neither you or your words are being received.

"Shake the dust off your feet."

I hope this helps.

Steve Martin said...

Jesus was speaking to itinerant preachers going from town to town.

Depending upon the situation we might need to show some patience and take a bit more time before we say sayonara.

Garen Martens said...

I have not used this verse or thought in dealing with the spiritual realm, but have had to use it several times in dealing with people in business or city functions. I believe there comes a point when we are allowed to say that there is no more need for us to try to reconcile a difference and then turn it over to the Lord for his intervention should He desire. I have no biblical basis to back my feelings on this topic, but think that common sense and the passage from Matt 18 lead me toward this conclusion.

Paul Burleson said...


Jesus gave us an example with His own action toward a rich young guy who asked Him what he had to do to inherit eternal life. When told to go sell and give it away and "follow me."...he went away sorrowfully.

Without reading too much between the lines, I think Jesus, metaphorically at least, shook the dust by NOT chasing him down. But His attitude toward him was simply described as Jesus, "Beholding him loved him." [Mark 10:21]

The same could be said of Jerusalem who would have been gathered but said NO. No chasing them down either.

As usual, with Jesus, His action was never disassociated from His motive, so saying "sayonara" was never with a heart of less than real love. [However we choose to define that.]

Wade Burleson said...


I agree with your sentiments about being quick to say sayonara.

However, I also think some need encouragement to know that Jesus is more interested in real relationship than show relationship.

Real relationship is found in communication, acceptance, and love.

Wade Burleson said...


Ditto, Paul Burleson.

The encouragement I'm giving to Emily is "Don't chase relationship. Let it go."

Anonymous said...

Good word, though there are many blogs which refuse to: "Let it go". Is it probable that you held on the the IMB trusteeship when you should have, much sooner, simply: "Let it go"?

How does this position jive with the support and approval for blogs which exist to "Not let it go" when it comes to their criticism of their church, former church or pastors?

You hold a lot of influence with many, maybe you could express the word here with those who live to expose and criticize others who do things differently and tell the to just "Let it go."

Or maybe the word is not as good as you express.

Paul Burleson said...


It could be that when we talk about something other than relationships, which is what the original post was about, we're dealing with a different thing.

Someone has said, "The art of living a full life lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on." I think Someone is right.

In light of that statement, there may be great value in holding on and relentlessly pursuing a calling, much as Jim Elliott did as detailed in "Through Gates Of Splendor." But there may also come times to let something go, especially in relational terms.

It is usually the "fine mingling" that stumps us all in the mystery of the Christian life isn't it!

Anonymous said...


I am not sure what I read on many of the vitriolic bogs can be equal to a calling from God like Jim Elliott's was. If you can, I would love for you to share how. Maybe it could help me see the bigger picture.

When I typed my first reply, I was thinking about relationships. The relationship between two Christians, even a pastor and church member. If there can't be one, move on.

Your son spoke to Emily and encouraged her to shake the dust off her feet.

He also shares the following quote:

"He is instructing them that there will come a time when they will need to "shake the dust off their feet" in their desire to communicate with others."

I think my comments were within the context Wade put on the table for discussion.

I know personally how hard it is to shake the dust off my feet when "I" still want to express my thoughts and opinions. Especially when others want to hear me and join me in support of my opinions.

Maybe the command to shake the dust was for certain people in certain situations. Maybe the critical blogs against the churches and persons in those churches do not fit into the equation. Do we get to pick and choose?

Paul Burleson said...


I apologize for any lack of clarity on my part.

wasn't intending to say that your comment was out of line with the post at all. ["I think my comments were within the context Wade put on the table for discussion."]

My statement.. "It could be that when we talk about something other than relationships, which is what the original post was about, we're dealing with a different thing.".. was referencing what I saw as a distinction between relationships and the IMB trusteeship you mentioned, not anything you were doing incorrectly.

The rest of my comment is in THAT context. Sorry I didn't make that clearer. You've shown clearly why I'm NOT a regular commenter on ANY blog but my own. LOL

As to 'vitriolic blogs," I don't read with any regularity any blogs that would be identified with that term. [severely bitter or caustic; virulent] I read some blogs where some of the comments could be classified that way. But neither blogs nor comments were in view in my intended analysis with Jim Elliot.

I DO read a few blogs that I personally might classify as a calling, however. [Wartburg Watch is an example.]

Tim said...

This is a welcome post, and I've gained much from it and the comments.

I dropped you (and the TWW ladies) a private msg (5-10-12) about two parallel passages (Luke 9:5, Mark 6:11) that add an important phrase not present in the version from Matthew.

That phrase is: 'as a testimony against them.'

To me, this phrase adds a difficult wrinkle to the 'dust shaking.'

I don't know the underlying Greek, but the English translation introduces concepts of 'testimony' (something audible, written, or visible?) along with a 'line drawn in the sand' adversarial relationship - 'Against them.' Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Without going into details, we left a church wherein the leadership was systematically ignoring us on serious issues of great importance (deceit, hardball tactics, divisive tactics, plagiarism, etc.).

In our leaving, we 'shook the dust off of our feet' - but it was certainly not 'a testimony against them.'

We're still uncertain what 'a testimony against them' looks like. We are saddened to watch from afar disillusioned members who are wondering what's happened to their church. We have info that would answer their questions and 'pull the curtain back' on the whole series of events (which are currently being handled by a mixture of spin, rationalization, and buck-passing).

Back to the phrase in Luke 9:5/Mark 6:11 'as a testimony against them.' --- There is little doubt that I desire(d) to write a letter, make phone calls, etc. I was counseled by many to not do so, and have complied.

The very simple question I have is: Should I? Must I?

Is there a model in Luke 9:5/Mark 6:11 that suggests that I should make the past plain for these people? A testimony against them?

I don't want to eisegete that into the text. Further, I don't expect you (or any other commenter) to pull an 'exegetical rabbit out of the hat' and tell me 'yes.' I just want to know what the relationship of the 'dust shaking' is to the 'testimony against them.'

Thanks, Tim

Wade Burleson said...


Fascinating comment.

Honestly, you have introduced to me a concept that is new. I see the logic.

Frankly, in your situation, I believe "shaking the dust of your shoes" MUST involve making known your concerns to those you love who remain in the church. Why?

Because if the whole concept of "shaking the dust off" is based on the Jewish concept that even the dust of the wicked is evil (see Gill), then those you love in the midst of evil MUST be warned.

Those are my thoughts, and that is one of the reasons I admire Wartburg Watch.

Unknown said...

I just read your older post on Authoritarianism (which was good). In that post, you stated, "There is no emphasis in the New Testament on authority that is derived from any "office" or position.

Yet in this post, you state "It would seem to me that if a pastor or another Christian in authority...".

Perhaps Authoritarianism is so ingrained into the fabric of the church that it comes out subconsciously. I don't think you meant it in that way (given your other post), but I found it ironic.

Anyway, I love your posts, and I feel the freedom to point this out even though you are an esteemed pastor. I am open to being corrected if I'm off base. Thanks

Unknown said...

I think most of you missed the point and the context for this verse: ....It's intended for unbelievers that reject the gospel, not for personal relationships among fellow believers that go awry. We must rightly divide the Word and look at the whole Counsel of God.

Unknown said...

I think most of you missed the point on this's intended for nonbelievers who reject the gospel that they are sharing, not for personal relationships with fellow believers with whom you find disagreement. We must rightly divide the Word in context and be Bereans.