Shake The Dust Off Your Feet

by Michael Verdicchio on August 17, 2009 Print this article

[The Bible is an “Eastern” book.  It was written many years ago in the “East” which today we refer to as “The Middle East.”  As such, there are many customs and idioms that are not familiar to the “Western” mind.]

In the Gospels, you read of Jesus sending out the twelve to preach.  One of the things he told them was that if people didn’t want to hear what they had to say they were to depart and, “shake off the dust of your feet.”

Paul and Barnabas in Acts, Chapter 13, “shook off the dust of their feet,” when they were expelled out of Antioch.

To our Western minds that sounds a little odd. In fact, it almost sounds a little arrogant.  But, again, understanding the Eastern mind gives us great insight.

It Is Not Literal

First of all, it is not literal.  They did not take off their sandals and shake the dust off.  It issandals an Eastern idiom.  It has to do with what you walk away with in your mind, what you carry in your mind.

This Eastern idiom means to shake off any animosity or bitter feelings which you may have toward someone.  In doing so, when you leave, you leave with peace in your heart and mind.  You don’t take with you any resentment for others.  In other words, don’t take any anger, hurt, blame or regret with you when you leave.

If Jesus sent you out to preach, then you would certainly want people to respond favorably to the message.  But when people don’t respond favorably, you might be tempted to be upset with them.  How could they refuse?  What’s wrong with them?

Shaking the dust means that you don’t carry any of that with you.  And the same is true if they treat you poorly.  You don’t carry any of that with you either.  You leave it all there and move on.

Leave It All Behind

Shaking off the dust means you leave all thoughts of ill feeling behind, and move forward with God’s peace in your heart and mind.  It is the responsibility of those who hear the message what they do with it – accept it or reject it.

Sometimes Christians feel obligated to make people accept the Good News and obligated to make them believe something.  When you share the Good News you are simply a messenger, like the twelve were, like Paul and Barnabas.  You and I are not responsible for people’s response.  And you really don’t want to allow people’s negative responses to weigh you down in your mind.

Shake the dust from your feet, and move on.

Matthew 10:14:
And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.

Mark 6:11:
And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them.

Luke 9:5:
And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.

Acts 13:51:
But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.

Feel free to leave a comment.   We’d love to hear what you have to say.

For more “Eastern Eye” articles, Click Here, or click The Eastern Eye tab above.

Mike Verdicchio
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There are a number of books that you can read to get insight on customs, manners, idioms and meanings from the Eastern culture in which the Bible was written.  The best I know of were written by by Bishop K. C. Pillai.  I have had the pleasure of listening to recorded teaching by him.

He wrote three books, and they are hard to find, and are usually over priced.  But, if you want to you can check this link to see what Amazon has to offer. Light Through an Eastern Window

Another great resource that I have used for years is a book called, “Manners and Customs of the Bible,” by James Freeman. Mine was printed in 1972 and I know they have newer additions. For the newest edition, just click the link and it will take you to Amazon. The New Manners and Customs of the Bible (Pure Gold Classics)

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Francine October 19, 2010 at 11:18 pm

to shake the dust off your feet those that mean you don’t go back there anymore?

Mike Verdicchio October 20, 2010 at 6:47 am

Francine, shaking the dust off the feet simply means to not carry any hurt, bitterness or animosity. But as far as never going back again, I don’t think it implies that. I think that it is very helpful to remember that we are just delivering a message – people can accept it or reject it.

Judy S. April 23, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I was thinking of this verse concerning a neighbor…have invested the last 10 years in their life but have decided that our time spent there isn’t productive and it is bringing my husband and I down. I like how you explained it…..I am a bit angry but not for them not responding to the gospel..just their negativism and vulgarity. Believe that life is too short and want to be around those who help me continue to grow in y walk with Christ and help those who I can help. Thanks for the reminder to not walk away being bitter.

Mike Verdicchio April 23, 2011 at 2:28 pm

You are right, Judy; being bitter does not help you. There are times when we just have to move on.

Dav!d June 8, 2011 at 7:20 am

When I was kicked out of a church for standing up for YHWH’s Feasts rather than the pagan festivals, a verse that helped me tremendously was, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the YHWH.” Romans 12:20 (also Deut 32:35). Each time I felt anger or frustration for being called a false prophet and a heretic, and then told we are divorced, I had to quote this verse to myself and/or spouse to help us dust off our feet. Two months later “Pastor Ron” was found in fornication with a student and left the church and the country in disgrace. YHWH repaid!

Thomas December 31, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Thank you for some needed insight. We have worked with a people and a city for upwards to 10 years in preaching and teaching God’s Word in the hope to see a church established. And after all this time and not seeing fruit remain we belive lead by the Lord to move on. A church has not been established yet a testamony left. Shaking the dust off our feet is not so dificult with this greater understanding of an “eastern eye”.

Mike Verdicchio January 5, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Thomas, you have sown seed, and you may never know what it will produce. While a “Church” may not have been established, the Word you have preached will not return void.

Heddy July 11, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Very insightful post, I just got this revelation a few weeks ago to shake off the dust after I had been struggling with words that had been spoken to me by a fellow believer. I have shaken off the dust from that incident and am moving on without bitterness and anger towards them. I think this also implies in whatever a situation that produces negativity in our lives we must shake it off from us and move on in the freedom that Christ provides to us.

Mike Verdicchio July 14, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Heddy, we just cannot carry negative things. We put off the old man stuff, and put on the new man, which is who God made us to be. And yes, you are right, that gives us so much freedom.

Teresa Dixon July 12, 2014 at 8:52 pm

I was having some problems at the church I had joined, it was really with the pastor. It was so bad that I left the church, I was told to go to the church dust my feet off in the front of the church and leave the church never look back and never return.I was told I’ll be cursed with a curse. i don’t believe that to be true. Just yesterday i talked with that pastor at my friends grandmothers funeral, really she wanted to talk to me i really could tell she was hurt that i had left cause we were close,and i could tell cause she was sorry. Please help!

Michael Verdicchio July 20, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Teresa,
As a born again child, you are not cursed, but rather, as Scripture teaches, blessed with all spiritual blessings.
i don’t know the particulars of your situation, but I do know that whever you go for spiritual nuture and growth, if your’re not getting, find a place where you do.
God bless you.

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