Your Log, My Speck… Wait, That’s Not It!
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. 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? How can you say to your brother: ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brothers eye”
As followers of Jesus, we are being conformed to his image and we have a responsibility not only to become increasingly like Him, but also to assist our brothers in their quest to be like Him too. So we hold each other accountable, rebuke one another, encourage one another, correct one another, help one another; bear one another’s burdens etc. Some of these activities (read rebuke/correction) are not fun especially if we are on the receiving end of the rebuke. In times past I mostly interpreted the above verse as prohibiting me entirely from correcting my brother when they are wrong. It’s one of those verses you read, feel guilt and figure you should shut-up permanently. After all, at any one moment, I am largely unaware of the plethora of ways in which I may be, and probably am, sinning. Ergo, I have no moment when I have a right to confront my brother for their sin. Right?
Thinking about the above verse, the way it plays out appears to be something like this:
1. Question: Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Answer: That’s a good question! Why is that happening? If you think about it, a log is infinitely larger than a speck. Extending the analogy to its logical conclusion, it becomes clear that this log must be obvious to you, not least of all because your eye is probably itchy; red; tearing and uncomfortable as a result of its presence. So WHY do you ‘not notice’? Well, I suspect the problem is not that we do not notice this nasty irritating thing in our eye (duh!); its not that we are ignorant of this log, the problem is that we are ignoring it. This passage is not about how hidden sin disqualifies you from dealing with your brother’s sin (otherwise you’d have to wait until heaven to confront your brother….which is really quite pointless!) Rather, Jesus seems to be talking about the fact that there are revealed sins we DO know about (perhaps sins we’ve been talk to about) which we are consciously, voluntarily not dealing with and because we are not dealing with them all attempts to rebuke our brothers will inevitably make us:
2. Hypocrites! Yup. If the above person is us then we are pretending! We are claiming to see on one hand and to be blind on the other. We are saying ‘hey my sights so good I can help you take out this speck and at the same time ‘oh no I don’t see this protruding thing in my own eye’. We are lying. Lying to others and perhaps, at some point, will end up lying to/deceiving ourselves if we avoid dealing with the sin long enough.
This passage is not about how hidden sin disqualifies you from dealing with your brother’s sin.
So, again, question: if you ‘can’t see’ your own glaring obvious sin how well-equipped are you to deal with someone else’s sin?
3. Answer: you’re not well equipped! At all. If anything your dangerous to your brother. You need to hold up a mirror to your own eye; take out your own log and THEN (and only then) take out the speck in your brothers ( and yes…really… take it out!) Once you acknowledge and deal with your log, life becomes so much clearer and you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brothers eye.
So, what I think is that Jesus is saying is that sin that’s being ignored in my life: prayerlessness, abandoning the habit of meeting together with saints, being unfaithful in doing my duties – name it – will significantly undermine my capacity to be useful to my brother. Until I take out my log I’m not in a good position to help others not least because my motivations and attitudes in doing so could (most likely will) be all wrong and I could end up being mean or self-righteous or hurtful or all manner of other unhelpful things and seeking to do things in selfishness rather than God’s love.
While my logs remain unchecked I am a dangerous person to my brothers. A hazard to everyone’s eyes, if you will! I will probably leave people terribly scarred by my saving exploits. But if I take out my own log, my own health benefits, my own peace is restored and my usefulness to my brother: my ability to help him/her enhance his/her own sight by gently+firmly pointing out to him/her things he/she genuinely may not even have noticed, is greatly increased.
May God help us.