3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 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? 5 Hypocrite! First, remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5, NKJV)
The figures of a speck and a plank are real figures, yet used humorously. Jesus shows how we are generally far more tolerant of our own sin than we are to the sin of others.
Though there might be a literal speck in one’s eye, there obviously would not be a literal plank or board in an eye. Jesus used these exaggerated, humorous pictures to make His message easier to understand and more memorable.
It is a humorous picture: A man with a board in his eye trying to help a friend remove a speck from the friend’s eye. You can’t think of the picture without smiling and being amused by it.
An example of looking for a speck in the eye of another while ignoring the plank in one’s own is when the religious leaders brought the woman taken in adultery to Jesus. She had certainly sinned; but their sin was much worse and Jesus exposed it as such with the statement, He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first (John 8:7).
Jesus indicates that the one with the plank in his own eye would not immediately be aware of it. He is blind to his obvious fault. It is the attempt to correct the fault of someone else when we ourselves have the same (or greater fault) that earns the accusation, “Hypocrite!“
“Jesus is gentle, but he calls that man a ‘hypocrite’ who fusses about small things in others, and pays no attention to great matters at home in his own person.” – Charles Spurgeon
Our hypocrisy in these matters is almost always more evident to others than to ourselves. We may find a way to ignore the plank in our own eye, but others notice it immediately. A good example of this kind of hypocrisy was David’s reaction to Nathan’s story about a man who unjustly stole and killed another man’s lamb. David quickly condemned the man but was blind to his own sin, which was much greater (2 Samuel 12).
Jesus didn’t say that it was wrong for us to help our brother with the speck in his eye. It is a good thing to help your brother with his speck, but not before dealing with the plank in your own eye.
We can all avoid foolish judgment. The world will be better off for it.
Father God, keep us from the folly of foolish judgment. It is so easy to do in our fallen nature. Help us to use our words to build up and edify, not to judge. In Jesus name, Amen.
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