Specks & Planks

Jesus was the most extraordinary communicator in all of human history. He was the ultimate guide for bringing truth to everyday life.  So it is not surprising that his craft as a carpenter provided rich illustrations for his teaching.  Specks of sawdust were part of his life. He used words with the skill and grace of the ultimate master woodworker. His crafted vivid word pictures that connected his hearers to everyday life. Thus, in Luke’s gospel, 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 your 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. Often the self-righteous person is oblivious to his own sin. Everyone around him knows he is self-righteous, but he remains clueless. Jesus illustrates this in a way that 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 the wreckage created from turning his head he calls out, “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 out for you and then you will be able to 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. Because of our blindness and hypocrisy about our own sin, all we can do is focus on the tiny speck of sawdust 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 their specks.

Counsel With Confidence

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.