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UNDERSTANDING SCRIPTURE: The Planks in Our Eyes

It is one of the skeptics’ most abused teachings of Christ, because it is one of the least understood by believers.  I am speaking about the parable of the speck in our neighbor’s eye and the plank in our own (Matthew 7:1-5 and Luke 6:37-42).  God’s enemies use these passages to silence God’s people from righteously criticizing the actions of those who do wrong.  But this only works because God’s people do not understand what Christ is actually saying to us.  If we understood — truly understood — we wouldn’t allow this teaching to silence us, but to empower us.  In fact, it is only when we correctly understand this teaching that we finally become fully self-aware.  And, yes, I am saying that skeptics have even perverted the notion of self-awareness.  This is how badly this crucial teaching has been undermined, so it is time to do what we can to set things straight again.

Let’s start with Matthew 7:1-5:

Judging Others

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and [a]by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how [b]can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Everyone who reads the first line and stops gets the meaning of this passage wrong!  That’s correct: if all you read is do not judge, you do not understand what Jesus is trying to teach us here.  We know this by reading the rest.  When we read the rest of what Jesus is teaching us, we not only find that we must judge (“and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye“), but also how to judge (“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and [a]by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”).  You see, the point of this parable is not to tell us not to judge, but to be absolutely sure that we judge others in the way we wish to be judged.  If we are wise, this will lead to the very thing Jesus says in Matthew 7:12:

12 “In everything, therefore, [i]treat people the same way you want [j]them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

We call this the ‘Golden Rule,’ and it is merely another way of saying:

Matthew 9:13

13 But go and learn [a]what this means: ‘I desire [b]compassion, [c]and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Which is Jesus citing Hosea 6:6:

For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

This is the thrust of Christ’s message: not to ignore wrong doing, but to be sure to use mercy in making our judgments of others’ actions.  If we keep reading Matthew 7, we will find the entire chapter is about learning to treat others with mercy; with the same agape love God treats us.  But it is also about learning to be truly self-aware.  However, Luke is better for understanding this part of Christ’s message:

Luke 6:37-42

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; [a]pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. They will [b]pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

39 And He also spoke a parable to them: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A [c]pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will [d]be like his teacher. 41 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 Or 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 brother’s eye.

Notice how Luke starts the same way as Matthew, but Luke stresses the importance of not condemning, but forgiving; of giving (understanding, grace and forgiveness).  Luke stresses that the standard we use to measure others is the standard by which we, ourselves, will be measured.  But then Luke goes further. Luke recounts Jesus’s teaching using a parable about how a blind man cannot lead another blind man.  Now, Christ uses the image of a blind man because blind people were common in the Holy Land at the time.  But Jesus has a double meaning here.  He uses the picture of physical blindness, but he is referring to Spiritual blindness.  But how can one be sure he or she is not Spiritually blind?

This is what the passage of the log in one’s own eye is really all about: becoming self-aware.  Our world likes to think that ‘self-aware’ means we are aware that we will eventually die (or something to this affect).  This is the definition most often used to differentiate man from the other animals.  The problem is that this definition is incorrect!  Spend enough time on a farm and one will quickly learn that animals are aware of their own mortality.  Often times, they are even aware of when their time to die has come.  No, being aware of one’s own mortality is not the True definition of ‘self-awareness.’  So, what is?  Being aware of one’s own sin is what makes one Truly self-aware, and that is what Christ is trying to teach us in the parable of the log and speck.

If one reads these passages in their full context — especially the entire context of the whole of Scripture — one will discover that Jesus, Himself, constantly calls us to judge.  We like to use the word ‘discern,’ because we think ‘judge’ is too harsh, but we are called to judge none the less.  But it is in these passages that Jesus calls us to take a long, hard look in the morality mirror, and He is calling us to see our true reflection in that mirror.  But one can only see their true reflection in the morality mirror if one can see their own sin.  Unless we have humbled ourselves enough to see God’s Law, as well as where, how and when we have broken it, we are Spiritually blind.  This is the true message in Christ’s parable: if you cannot see True right and wrong — right and wrong according to God’s Law — then how will you ever be able to see well enough to tell others what is right from wrong?  And, if you cannot see the right in wrong in your own life, then you do not see right and wrong at all.  You’re not only blind to it in the lives of others, but you are blind to it entirely!

This is why Jesus taught this parable: to call us to drill down deep into our own actions, hold those actions up to the yard stick of God’s Law, and decide whether or not we have measured up to God’s Standard.  If we do not measure up (and none of us do), then Jesus tells us that the best thing we can do is judge others by the standard we want to be judged, ourselves.  For all those who seek to obey the Lord, this should be enough to make us into very humble, gentle and forgiving people who are slow to anger and quick to forgive.  However, sadly, most of those who hear Christ’s message about the log and speck will never understand, because most of us simply refuse to submit to His authority…

[NOTE: I have placed this blog in the Lord’s hands.  I am no longer cross-blogging to other sites.  I am not pushing this blog in any way.  If others are going to find it, and if it is going to grow, it will be up to the Lord to make it happen through you, the reader.  If you like this post, or find it to be of any value, then please share it with others.  Otherwise, I will simply continue to share the understandings I have been given and, as I said earlier, I will leave the fruit of my effort for the Lord to handle.]

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