By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
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. - Matthew 7:4-5
In Matthews’s gospel, during the time when Jesus is preaching The Sermon on the Mount, he makes a very interesting statement about specks and planks. I know he was the son of a carpenter, but that was not the driving motivation behind this statement.
Today, let’s consider the true meaning of this verse and figure out how you can actually see the plank in your own eye.
What Is the Context around This Plank Concept?
Prior to making this statement to take the plank out of your eye, Jesus is talking about judging and condemning. This leads to a very obvious but necessary question: What does it mean to judge and what does it mean to condemn?
To judge means to come to a final conclusion about a matter.
To condemn means to pass a sentence on someone, and since it’s based on a presumption of guilt, it is a negative or eternal sentence.
When you look at these two words together, here is what someone is doing (hopefully that someone is not you or me). You put yourself in the seat of final judgment and pronounce damnation upon a person. In essence, you are making a final conclusion about the eternal condition and destination of a person, which we are not in a position to do.
Is it any wonder why Jesus would say don’t do this?
What Did Jesus Mean By Judging?
Here is what Jesus was telling them: Before you go looking at the faults in others, take a look at yourself first. It’s like the old saying when you point a finger at someone you have three pointing back at you.
If you have been saved for any length of time you probably know condemning people is not a good idea. You may have even read this story in Luke before.
The question this verse naturally prompts is: How do you learn to see the plank in your own eye? This is absolutely necessary because to not see your own plank means you are a hypocrite. (Jesus’ words, not mine, so don’t shoot the messenger.)
3 Ways to See the Plank in Your Own Eye
Here are some suggestions to help you do this.
Do you remember what you were before Christ saved you? Do you remember what you were when you first got saved?
Do you remember last week when you said the thing you shouldn’t have said, thought the thing you shouldn’t have thought, or did the thing you shouldn’t have done? (or maybe that’s just me)
The truth is for all of us, myself included, that apart from Christ we don’t look so good or smell so good. Before you get ready to bring the hammer of judgment down on someone else...remember. And let these humbling words of Jesus ring true in your heart:
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. – John 8:7
The crux of what Jesus was saying here is...how can you be so quick to judge another person without first looking at what is inside you? This is always a great place to start. It is always a great idea to look at the condition of your own heart before you try to deal with the condition of someone else’s.
There are so many ways and places we can go wrong. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that the heart is deceitful above all things. I cannot tell you how many times I have looked back on something I did and recognized that my motivation for doing it was all wrong.
But how else will you recognize this unless you take a moment and review what is in your heart? When you do, you will discover that it’s hard enough to sort out your own emotions and feelings towards a person or situation.
With this being the case, what chance do you have to determine someone else’s? Consider what Haggai 1:5 says:
Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.
When was the last time you did that? I believe if you will do that, you will often see the plank in your eye.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
When I was younger, I used to be very dogmatic. My convictions were right and you couldn’t tell me otherwise. My interpretation of Scripture was right. My viewpoint on any gray areas in Scripture was right.
What an arrogant and foolish way to look at life. I allowed no room for anyone else’s opinion. I was ripe for hypocrisy.
As I have gotten older (hopefully more mature and wiser) I have learned to relax when listening to and dealing with other people. My former pastor said this: “always err on the side of grace.” This means before you pass judgment, before you jump to a conclusion…relax.
Sometimes we in the church can be so quick to bring the pain of judgment before we have complete information. I recall once hearing someone say, “Without complete information, any conclusion you come to is probably wrong.” Proverbs 18:17 puts it this way:
The first person to speak in court always seems right until his opponent begins to question him.
How often have we jumped to conclusions and judgment without having all of the information? We are doing exactly what Jesus warned us not to do. How do you solve this? Relax.
Take a moment and gather all the information. Once you have complete information, then make a fair decision on the matter. If that doesn’t help you, then remember how God deals with you and your “stuff.”
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. – Psalm 103:8-10
Notice God (who has complete information and is in the position to pass judgment with just cause) chooses not to. He responds with compassion, grace, slowness, love, and mercy. Do you think it would make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you if we treated people this way? This is the heart of what Jesus was getting at.
In fact, wrapped within the same discourse in Luke, Jesus says these words:
Forgive, and you will be forgiven. – Luke 6:37
Looking to forgive instead of looking to condemn will go a long way to helping you see the plank in your own eye.
Don’t Let Judgment Impede Compassion
It all comes down to kindness and compassion. When you really love and care about a person you are not quick to judge. When you don’t really love them, then you will judge very quickly.
Let’s come to the place where we put Jesus’ words into practice and also remember what the Apostle Paul said:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32
I truly believe if each of us can do this, then you and I will begin to see the planks in our own eyes. By the time we get finished removing them, the specks of dust won’t even matter that much anymore.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.