Sawdust & Self-righteousness

Posted on April 4, 2018 · Posted in Criticism_, Sanctification, Wisdom

Jesus was a carpenter. Specks of sawdust were part of his life. Jesus was also the most extraordinary communicator in all of human history! He used words with the skill and grace of the ultimate master woodworker. His masterfully crafted word pictures connected his hearers to everyday life. This is exactly what he does in Luke’s gospel when he uses the common elements of his carpenter’s life to connect to my life and yours. Here is what Jesus says:

“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, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Self-righteousness is a sin that plagues many of us. So often the self-righteous person is oblivious to his own sin. Everyone around him knows he is self-righteous, but he remains clueless. To point this out, Jesus chooses to use hyperbole to make the point. It would be comical if it were not so true to life.

One person is walking around with a huge plank sticking out of his eye. As he turns around to speak to someone the plank crashes into a lamp and then a bookcase, sending debris in all directions. However, instead of cleaning up all of the wreckage created from turning his head he calls out and says, “Friend, I see that you have this ugly speck stuck in the corner of your eye. I am so glad that I saw this. Just stand still and I will take it our of our eye for you and you will be able see clearly again.” Of course the friend has to lunge for safety to avoid being the next casualty of the destructive plank!

Jesus makes his point with great clarity. You and I are so blind to our own faults that we ignore them in order to “fix” the issues of others. Yet because of our blindness and hypocrisy about our own sin all we can do is focus on the tiny speck of sawdust in others and ignore our own planks.

The point: if you are constantly noticing the flaws and failings of those around you, you are most likely ignoring the destruction being caused by your own sin. Stop and use the mirror of Scripture to look for the planks bulging out from your eye. Once you remove those, you may find that people will welcome your offer to help them with the specks of sawdust in their eyes.

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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.