Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)
It just so happens that I visited the optician this week to have my eyes tested. Using various implements to see what sort of health our eyes are in, they get very close don’t they? I was thinking about how difficult that would be if the optician had a plank in their eye, actually impossible!
In this part of Jesus’ sermon, He injects some Hyperbole to get His point across. He used this form of exaggeration on a number of occasions and I’m sure His listeners found it quite amusing (well, not all of them anyway!). He used it in a similar context when He told the religious leaders that they strained out gnats and swallowed camels (Matthew 23:24). He also talked about camels passing through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24). This form of exaggeration and ridiculousness really drives the point home.
The simple point made in today’s passage is to stop focussing on other people’s faults before looking at and addressing your own.
Jesus has been looking at the whole subject of judging other people and He has an eye on the scribes and Pharisees as He recognises their hypocritical spirit. They need to get their own house in order first before they even consider focussing on other people’s problems.
Jesus is speaking against ‘meddling’ in other people’s affairs, especially without having all the facts. I mentioned in recent weeks that it is God’s job to judge our thoughts and motivations and His alone.
I am reminded of the story of Job in the Old Testament who had a number of ‘comforters’ who were intent on meddling and presuming to tell Job where he had gone wrong. In the end God firmly rebukes them for their meddling and tells them outright that they were wrong. If we are not careful, we can be very much like Job’s comforters, we may have the best of intentions, but we should be very careful when we make assumptions, especially when we can never be in full possession of all the facts.
As I have said previously, Jesus is not condemning every type of judgement. Sometimes we need to correct people when they are clearly in the wrong, but that involves humility, honesty and kindness, with a view to loving restoration. Verse 5 even shows us that when we have removed our own logs we will then see clearly to help our brother or sister with their speck. When you think about it a log in your eye would be pretty obvious to everyone, especially the one you are trying to help. Most of us would refuse any help from someone so hypocritical to presume to correct us when their fault is far worse than ours. By removing our plank we are much more likely to be received.