“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

Jesus now teaches us more about the true motive behind judging others. We have seen that the motive is pride and our pride usually manifests itself in the form of self-righteousness. Whenever we think that we are okay – that we possess what it takes to serve God – when we falsely believe that we are righteous on our own, these are the signs of pride and specifically of self-righteousness.

He teaches us here about the speck and plank. The speck can also be translated as the splinter, or a small piece of straw. The plank is also a way to say log or support beam. He asks why we look so intently at the small speck in our brother’s eye and ignore the plank sticking out of our own! We will examine this at length in the next few days, but today I want to set the stage by looking at what is actually happening here. In order to fully grasp Jesus’ meaning here, we are going to take the sentence apart grammatically. Remember the subject and predicate? The subject of His sentence is “you”. The verbs are “look” and “consider.” And He is asking a question, “Why?” So to dig in, Jesus is asking a basic question – “why do you look and consider?”

Well to answer that we must fill in the adjectives – the things we are looking at and considering. “Why do you look at the speck” and “why do you not consider the plank?” The focus of the discussion is on us!

Why do we insist on judging others? Why do we focus on the speck in our friends eye while we completely miss that we have a plank sticking out of ours?
So what’s the point? I’m glad you asked. There is a much deeper point to be made here than a lesson about eye irritations. You see, a speck in our eye is painful, but really it is only a small irritation. If on the other hand we had a telephone pole sticking out of our eye socket we would most definitely be blinded.

Jesus is teaching us that when we judge others we are missing the plank that blinds us while trying to investigate the speck that simply irritates our neighbor. I call it the discussion between the bothersome and the blinding. How on earth could we ever attempt to pluck a splinter out of someone’s eye if we have a beam sticking out of ours?

“Don’t Judge,” Jesus has said. Because when we judge often we miss the beam of sin and self-righteousness that blinds us to ourselves and our own condition in sin. When we judge, too, we often pick up on the very small, bothersome things that others are doing and want to help them when we are ourselves completely spiritually blind!

So He asks the question before He embarks further on the point – “WHY?” Why would we take the time and invest the energy at removing a small, bothersome speck from someone’s eye if in the mean time we were completely blinded by a plank in our own eye? He wants to know! He really does want an answer – this is not a rhetorical question! When we judge others, why is it that we are so picky about their lives and don’t even see that the plank of self-righteousness that motivates us to judge is actually a blinding agent in our lives?

He wants to know because we have already been told not to judge others. So no matter how we try to justify it – “Did you hear what so-and-so did, or said?” “Did you know that he acted like that in front of other church members?” Did you see what she was wearing?” – if we are guilty of judging we must examine ourselves to see that our own sin and self reliance isn’t blinding us to the truth about ourselves and about others!

Why do we examine others with a powerful magnifying glass and yet look at ourselves through the wrong end of a telescope? Why do we focus on simple annoyances in others’ lives and completely miss the things that would render us helpless, powerless, and without sight? How do we manage to obsess about battles other Christians are fighting while we don’t even give a thought to the temptations we face and fall to every day?

If you find yourself judging others today – stop and ask why! And ask yourself how that beam of self-righteousness got in your own eye! Then repent and get on with your day. He has much to say to us today – and much to say through us – sow the seed of truth today in a dry, parched world!

We have looked at the technical aspects of what Jesus is teaching. We have also looked at the motive behind judging. Self righteousness leads us to place ourselves above others in such a way that we feel qualified to deal with every sin we can identify in their lives. Now we are going to look at the practical side of this lesson and reveal the characteristics of “splinter pulling.”

Jesus asks a question, again, “How can you say?” In other words, how can we possibly find the way to say that we need to remove a splinter out of our brother’s eye when we are standing there with a beam in ours? Don’t we even notice the huge log sticking out of our eye?

You see, we get so caught up in being “holier than thou” that we do indeed neglect to see our own sin. We are blinded by the plank itself to our own condition. But Jesus has just opened our eyes! Now we know that if we are judging others, then we have at least one beam protruding from our eye – the blinding sin of self righteousness. We also might have other beams right along side it as well.

Now picture this if you can. Imagine walking up to someone you know at church. While you are walking up to them you are totally unaware that a telephone pole is sticking out of your head! Never mind that your eye is blinded and that your head tilts toward the ground – it’s okay, you’ve been stiffening up those old neck muscles. But anyway, as you walk up to this person with this protrusion from your cranium, you happen to catch a glimpse of them blinking funny. Their eyes are watering and they keep complaining about the discomfort they are feeling. You, being a busy body (of course you say you are motivated by care and concern), just have to know what is bothering them – and upon closer inspection you find a small splinter has gotten into their eye. Do you have the picture?

Now imagine you, telephone pole intact, walking over to them to help pull the splinter out of their eye! (The word for remove, by the way, means to violently pull out). Every step you take toward them your telephone pole slams against their head! There you are, all caring and what not, trying to pull out a splinter and beating them half to death with this huge pole in the process – he would have been better off if you had let him get the splinter out himself! Now he has an eye irritation and a bashed head!

Spiritually that is exactly what we do when we judge! We attempt to “help” remove a speck (by force if necessary – “I’m only doing this because I love you; and it hurts me more than it hurts you.”)and in the process bludgeon them upside the head with the plank in our own eye. We can’t see the plank, much less anything else because of our heart attitude and motive – so now we are trying to remove small specks?

The practical application is this – if we are refusing to see our own sin and self righteousness then how can we possibly see sin in someone else’s life? If we are motivated to judge and condemn when a brother sins instead of picking him back up again and helping him find forgiveness and freedom, then indeed we have become blinded and it is we who need the spiritual help. Jesus is asking a simple question – if all we are concerned about is the sin other people commit, then we have the wrong focus! Our focus needs to be on Christ alone. When we see Him then we can see ourselves and the areas of our lives that need work and the sins that need forgiving.

If on the other hand, we live to reprove others, then it is we who need reproving – if we are to be like Christ we must understand that with the woman caught in adultery He did not condone the sin, He forgave; and instead of condemning (or judging) He set an example for us by telling her simply to “go and sin no more.” He forgave and loved and encouraged and lifted up – often we tear down and destroy – all in the name of our own self righteousness!

Today, don’t go splinter hunting – instead ask the Father to show you things in your own life that need tending!

Psalms 75:4-5
Proverbs 13:18, 20
Proverbs 16:5, 19-21
Proverbs 21:24
Proverbs 28:25-26
Proverbs 29:1
Jeremiah 13:15; 17:23
Isaiah 42:6-7, 16; Isaiah 59:10-20
Proverbs 17:24
Isaiah 5:21
Psalm 19:8; 36:1-4; 101:3-8