Matthew 7: 3-5
Although a carpenter by trade, Jesus rarely used analogies based on carpentry. But he was surely remembering sawdust that got in his eye while he shaped a plank when he used this analogy about judging others in Matthew 7: 3-5:
“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? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."
We can be judgmental of others. Jesus warned against this while also reminding us in other passages that judgment was best left up to him, and that our job is mercy toward others.
He doesn't say that we should never attend to others' sins, but he does say that we need to examine and correct our own spiritual life before we do so. Our tendency is to nitpick what others do while being completely comfortable with the many things we do wrong.
Let's dive deeper into Jesus' analogy. As I write about this passage in my forthcoming book, From Comfort Zone to Trust Zone: How Jesus Urges Us to Take Leaps of Faith for His Kingdom, we need to think about how you would even go about removing a speck from someone's eye. Would you be rough or gentle? Would you inspect very carefully that you were actually removing the speck while disturbing nothing else? It might even be better if we simply held up a mirror so the person could see the speck and remove it themselves.
Similarly, if and when we do approach others about their sin, it should be gently, tenderly, and carefully done. Maybe it's best to simply hold up a mirror to their behavior so they can locate and remove the sin themselves. That's what we would want if someone volunteered to remove a speck from our eye, or sin from our behavior.
What would it be like to live with an actual plank in your eye? Not only would you not be able to see clearly to assist others, but I think that you would have become comfortable with having a plank in your eye. You wouldn't notice the pain that it inflicts; you would have become numb. It would reach the point where you wouldn't notice the obstructed vision as much; you would just see around the blockage as best as you could. Removal might seem painful and out of the question; the plank would have basically become part of you.
That's the way it is with our sin. We become numb to the pain it causes us (and others). We hardly notice it at times, because we're so accustomed to it. We might not even want to remove it; removal would be uncomfortable, and we've become comfortable with our particular sins.
Any way you work the analogy, it is clear to see that our first task is to be vigilant in identifying and removing sin from our own lives. We must not judge others. But if we do correct others, we should exercise tenderness and care rather than a rough, harsh approach. Maybe all we need to do is hold up a mirror.
Check out my latest podcast of the Top 11 Themes of Jesus. This month covers theme #5 of Repentance and Forgiveness. I walk through Jesus' comments on sin that requires repentance and how God offers forgiveness when we repent. Later, I'm joined by David Inman to discuss the connection between forgiving others and being forgiven ourselves. Search for "Cecil Taylor Monthly Podcasts" on Apple, Spotify, and Podbean, or visit the Cecil Taylor Ministries YouTube channel, or visit my launch page to all the options at CecilTaylorMinistries.com/free-content .