We find it so easy to turn a microscope on another person’s sin, but we look at ours through the wrong end of a telescope ….
We can easily spot a speck of phoniness in another, because we have a logjam of it in our own lives. Wrath toward the speck in someone else’s life may come from the suppressed guilt over the same massive sin in our own lives …..
Jesus was using a little humor when He said, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3-4).
The word “plank” speaks of a very large piece of wood, while the word “speck” speaks of a very small bit of wood, even as small as a little bit of sawdust. So to loosely paraphrase, “How can you get the sawdust out of your brother’s eye if you have a telephone pole in yours?”
An interesting twist on this statement is that “speck” and “plank” are from the same original word, meaning they are of the same substance. In other words, Jesus was saying the reason some people are so adept at finding fault in the lives of others is because they are so familiar with it themselves. They can spot certain things in another person’s life because they are guilty of the same sin — perhaps in probably a greater capacity ….
Sometimes the people who are nitpicking the sins of others are guilty of far worse themselves. But if we know anything of being forgiven by God, then we will be forgiving people. Forgiven people should be forgiving people. And how is that achieved? Very simple really — Do Not Judge!!
Do not judge. This is a familiar teaching, but we can’t hear it too many times. After we’ve conquered other evils, the inclination to judge others often remains, and can even grow stronger. What can we do about it? What is the solution?
Today we read the familiar passage in which the Lord says, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” But in another place in the New Testament, the Lord said, “Judge righteous judgment.” So what did the Lord mean when He said, “Judge not”? What judgments does He want us to make and what judgments does He forbid us to make?
Part of the message is clear: we shouldn’t judge other people for their faults, since we have faults of our own that we’re blind to. But this is not the whole message. In the end, we are supposed to help our brother remove the splinter from his eye. In fact, that is the purpose of removing the plank from our own eye …..
There are three parts to this illustration of judging. First, the Lord calls us to notice when we are looking at a splinter in our brother’s eye despite the plank in our own eye. Second, He tells us to cast that plank out of our own eye. And third, He encourages us to use our new clear sight to cast the splinter out of our brother’s eye …..
The Lord says, “Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own?” This is the first part. We all have a tendency to focus on the faults of others. And sometimes we see the most faults in the people closest to us — we see the splinters in our brother’s eye ….
If we know someone very well, we come to see their shortcomings; and because we see these so closely and so often, we can make them out to be larger than they are. We pay inordinate attention to the minor faults — the splinters — in the way our friends and our neighbors see the world, the way they act …
Maybe they have a tendency to gossip. Maybe they complain too much about other people. Maybe they don’t seem to take religion seriously. There are many, many different ways that people can have a splinter in their eye – that is, a fault in their understanding of the truth, or a minor evil in their lives ….
When we are looking at others from a judgmental place, we are looking at a minor fault from a huge evil of falsity or flawed thinking patterns in ourselves …..
There are many kinds of evil intentions and false thoughts that go along with the attitude of judging another person. If we look at another person with contempt, we are in evil from falsity. We are in sin – in contempt, or hatred, or derision, or self-righteousness — from false belief and thinking errors ….
There are many different falsities that we might be in. Maybe it’s the false belief that we are better than that person or that we are more worthy. Maybe we’re of the false idea that we are able to see what a person looks like on the inside. When we look at another person with contempt, we are looking at them with a plank in our own eye — we are looking them and judging ourselves ..
This is the kind of judging we are forbidden to do. While we can judge a person’s actions to be good or bad, we can’t judge someone else’s motivations. We can’t judge what he is like in his or her heart. This kind of judging goes hand in hand with contempt and contempt for others is sin and forbidden by the Lord ….
If we do judge another person’s internal character — or if we do view other people with contempt — we have no chance of removing even a splinter from anyone else’s eye. We have a plank in our own eye ……
So what are we supposed to do? From ourselves, we might think that the solution is to ignore the splinter in our brother’s eye — to leave it alone. In fact, we might think that this is the message of this story.
We are not supposed to judge – therefore, we shouldn’t acknowledge that anyone else has a splinter in his or her eye. We should just mind our own business, right?
But that’s not what the Lord says. The Lord says, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”
We are told that we should try to remove the splinter from our brother’s eye — but first we have to remove the plank from our own eye. Remove the plank from your own eye. How do you do that?
Well, it’s easier said than done, and it can’t be done in an instant. It is a lifelong process. The Lord is talking about the process of self-examination and repentance. If you want to help others remove splinters from their eyes, you have to dig those planks out of your own eyes …..
The first step is to try to see what the plank is. Look for the thinking errors that are clouding your vision. I mentioned two of the biggest planks earlier. First, see if you are acting under the falsity that you can see what another person is truly like in his or her heart. Even if we acknowledge with our lips that we can’t know what a person’s intentions are, we often think that we can. But the Lord says time and again that only he knows the hearts of men. We cannot judge another’s spiritual state. This is the first plank we need to remove from our eyes ….
And second, see if you are acting under the false belief that you are better than that other person. How do we remove this falsity?
First, by acknowledging that we have evils and faults of our own. And second, by acknowledging that all good and all truth is from the Lord; that we did not earn any of the goodness or kindness in ourselves, but we received it as a gift from the Lord …
We need to humble ourselves. And we need to fight against the tendency to view others with contempt. We need to pray to the Lord to remove those feelings, that love of self above others. To remove that plank from our own eye involves coming to a point where we acknowledge that we are no better than the person we are trying to help ….
There is one more plank that we need to remove before we can help remove the splinter from our brother’s eye. The hardest of all combats is with the love of self. He who subdues this easily subdues all other sinful lusts, for this is their head ….
If we are going to help cast out that splinter, we need to first get rid of the love of the desire to control another person. We need to cast that plank from our eye – by praying to the Lord for the strength to resist the desire to control others, and by fighting with all our hearts against the inclination to do so …
Only then can we remove the splinter from our brother’s eye. And we should seek to remove that splinter. Remember, the Lord said, “Judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24).
We need to acknowledge that certain things really are harmful — both to society and to the person themself who is doing those harmful things. This is why we lock up criminals: not because we want revenge on them or believe that they are going to hell, but to keep them from harming society, and so they do not hurt their spiritual lives by continuing to act in evil. And if your brother has a splinter in his eye, that splinter is hurting him. If you have shunned the evil of arrogance and contempt, you can see clearly to help him remove that splinter …
What does it look like to remove the splinter from our brother’s eye? It might look like gently encouraging a friend in a struggle she is having. It might look like telling a loved one about something from the Word that helps him overcome a bad habit ….
If we are continually reminding ourselves that only the Lord can change people’s lives, and that we have no power of our own, we can help our brothers and sisters overcome their struggles without a sense of condemnation and without trying to control them ….
We judge an action, or an attitude, to be harmful, rather than judging a person. We act out of a love for protecting another from harm, rather than a love to dominate or control ….
Removing the plank from our own eye is not a one-time thing and we don’t have to wait until we’re perfect to help other people. But every time we want to help someone, we need to acknowledge our enormous tendency to put ourselves above others, and to realize that this evil (the love of self) is more harmful than whatever we are trying to help in the other ….
We need to rid ourselves of the desire to control others, and instead replace it with a sincere desire to serve. If we continue to cast out that beam, we are able to help others see the splinters in their eyes and remove them; and not from a place of condemnation, but one based from love …..
Let’s pray ~
Dear God, I know that it is Your will to help those that are afflicted – to support the weak; to provide for the widows and orphans and to help those that are in need. I humbly pray for all those who struggle with critical spirits and judgmental attitudes ….
Heavenly Father, You alone are worthy of all worship and praise and I ask that the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart may be honoring and pleasing to You throughout this day — for You are a great and a faithful God …..
Thank You that in Christ, I can come before Your throne of grace wherever I am and no matter what time it is, for in Him I can offer my prayers and supplications to You any hour knowing that Christ lay down His life for me so that in Him I can lay my life before You, in holiness and righteousness all my days ….
Lord I want to be the person You would have me be and I thank You that Your faithfulness is new every morning. As I step out into this new day I ask that I am enabled through Christ to live out the events of my day, in a way that is acceptable to You.
Thank You for the many faithful and true promises that You have given to me and to each of Your children — expressly that by the mercy I extend to others — so shall be that which I obtain ….
Guide me into all truth today and may I walk in the way of righteousness. Sanctify me that I may be found holy and upright with clear vision ….
Empower me to be less critical, less judgemental, less condescending; yet rather may You grace me with more tolerance, more patience, and a clearer view of myself and my own shortcomings …..
Use my hands to be of service to those in need and use my voice to speak words of healing and encouragement to those that are afflicted and in distress today ….
I humbly pray for discernment to see and not be blinded by anything that would give me a diminished view of You. I am now willing that You would remove anything from me that increases, or emphasizes self and my greatest desire is that You would increase as I decrease. In Jesus’ mighty name I pray, Amen …..
“For the oppressed will not always be forgotten; the hope of the afflicted will not perish forever.” (Psalm 9:18).