JESUS ASKS… “WHY DO YOU LOOK AT THE SPECK OF SAWDUST IN YOUR BROTHER’S EYE AND PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE PLANK IN YOUR OWN EYE?”
Jesus asks this question in Matthew 7:3. A splinter or wood chip in a neighbour’s eye might render that person blind, but a plank embedded in one’s own eye would certainly render one blind. The image is a graphic hyperbole. Just as we would not want a blind guide leading us into a pit (Matt. 15:14; 23:16), we would not want a blind surgeon operating on our eyes; only one who sees well is competent to heal others’ blindness.
Jesus is warning that the way we treat other people may be the way that God treats us. The more we feel our own need for mercy, the less judgemental we will be toward others.
Jesus is illustrating that it is so easy to turn a microscope on another person’s sin, while we look at ours through the wrong end of a telescope! We use some strong term for someone else’s sin, but a euphemism for our own.
We are so blind to our own faults, but think we can detect the slightest inconsistency in others. We carry two measuring sticks—one for ourselves and one for others. We have two different sets of words to describe our actions. A “bad temper” in another, we call “righteous indignation” in ourselves. “Stinginess” in others is “frugality” when we practise it.
In other words, Jesus is asking how can you complain about someone’s sin when you have a bigger one?
But why do some people seem to be experts at finding a speck in the eye of someone else? Is it because the fault stands out? No, they deliberately search for specks because they are looking for something to criticise.
The story is told of a family who returned home from a Sunday morning service. The father criticised the sermon, daughter thought that the choir’s singing was atrocious, and mother found fault with the organist’s playing. But the subject had to be dropped when the small boy of the family piped up: “But it was a good show for a rupee, don’t you think, Dad?”
Fallen men and women are still in the speck-removal ministry. R. K. Hughes in his book on the Sermon on the Mount wisely warns that the speck-removal ministry is not easy, even when the speck remover has clear vision...
He writes, “The procedure for removing a speck from an eye is very difficult and delicate. There is nothing in the human body more sensitive than the eye. The instant we touch it, it closes up. What is required in clearing an eye is gentleness, carefulness, patience, and sympathy for the other person. In the spiritual realm, the care is even more delicate, for we are handling a soul-the most sensitive part of a human being. We must be humble, sympathetic, conscious of our own sins, and without condemnation. We need God’s mercy. We need to be people who speak the truth in love because the love of God controls us.”
The prophet Nathan’s confrontation of King David is a classic example of the judge himself being condemned, Scripture recording that the prophet began by telling the king a tragic tale...
“Now a traveller came to the rich man, And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; rather, he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. And he must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion” (2Sam. 12:4-7, see also 2Sam. 12:8, 9, 10, 11, 12 - note Who and What David had despised!!!)
In response to David’s judgement on the “rich man,” Nathan declared...” You are the man!”
David in judging the rich man’s sin (“speck”), had condemned himself (“log”)!
Jesus commands us to drop our self-righteous act (“You hypocrite”) and examine ourselves. Where are we falling short of living as God has called us to live? Is it at home? At work? We can put up a good front some of the time, but there is no one who can keep it up all of the time. Our hypocritical mask of being Super-Christian is just that-a mask. We are commanded to take out this log immediately. The tense of the verb gives the sense of “Do it now. Don’t delay. Quickly!” When we have done that, we are in a position to go to our brother and help him. When we have allowed God’s Holy Spirit to lead us in self-examination and we have confessed our sins, we are able to help others deal with theirs.
Does this sound like a tall order? I think it should. As someone has so aptly put it,
There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly becomes any of us
To talk about the rest of us.