Summary: Get the plank or log out of your own eye first. We uncover one of the crucial disciplines (and often neglected in our age) for doing this: self-examination.
Series on the Mount
September 16, 2007
Last week we look at the need for discernment of right and wrong. We saw how Jesus wants to tread cautiously when judging others being careful not to condemn them. We look at the context of judging that we are to refrain from judging others religiously and we need to make sure that if we judge others, we judge ourselves with the same standard. Something that is incredibly difficult to do.
This week we want to look at the next three verses that further clarify what Jesus is communicating. Matthew’s Jesus is very much concerned with the religious leaders who judge and condemn others to either oppress them (as Matthew’s community probably experienced) or to elevate themselves (which is usually done at the expense of those below especially the poor). Jesus reinforces the idea of his Shema that we are to love God and love others and that when we fail to love others to remain religious or pure or clean or in good standing, then we have failed to obey God and have broken God’s law even though we thought we were keeping it.
The story is told of a young man who had just started his new job in the produce department of a grocery store, when a woman came up to him asking to buy a half head of lettuce.
As politely as he could, the young man said that “In this store, we don’t sell half heads of lettuce, we sell whole heads of lettuce.” The lady was remarkably persistent—obnoxiously so. And so in the end, he did what any young produce department grocery store lad would do, and said, “Well, let me go talk to the manager.”
The young man shuffles off to find the manager in the back of the store, not realizing that the woman is following him some distance behind. He gets to the manager, and says in frustration, “I’ve got this crazy old woman out there who wants to buy a half head of lettuce.
Seeing the look of consternation on his manager’s face, the lad realizes all of a sudden that the woman is standing right behind him. He turns and quick as a whip and says, “And this nice lady wants to buy the other half.”
Later that day, the manager complimented him on his very quick thinking, and in the course of the conversation said to the young man, “Where do you come from, where is your home?” “Well,” said the young man, “I’m from Toronto, home of beautiful hockey players and ugly women.” The manager’s face dropped once again as he said, “I’ll have you know, my wife is from Toronto.” Quick as a whip the young man turned around and said, “And what hockey team did you say she plays on?”
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.
Now the New American Standard Bible says to take the log out your own eye. I tend to like the word “log” over plank because plank implies a piece of processed wood and log is actually a little closer to the context. I mentioned last week about what I call the log principle and this is where I get it from.
Log Principle – if something or someone bothers me a lot then there is something in me that I need to examine. Usually if I am upset or perturbed or irritated by someone then most likely it is because I have that same character defect or tendency or sinful nature in me. And if it bothers me so, then I have really dealt with it. For when I deal with those things and examine myself I become more tolerant of others.
However, I have found a general exception. Sometimes there things that I react so strongly to not because there is a tendency in me but because I have strong emotional connection to the issue. The biggest example for me personally is sexual abuse of children. My parents were social workers in the child welfare system and even though I was spared the details because of confidentiality, somehow I inherited a sensitivity to the issue. As a pastor, I have seen the lifelong scars. I have heard the anguish of its victims and honestly the perpetrators infuriate me. But I would not have discovered this about and why I react the way that I do without applying Jesus’ instructions here. Jesus is teaching his followers to do moral self-examinations.