Help! There’s a Log in My Eye! (Part 1)

Until we get to heaven, none of us can fully understand what God is telling us in the Bible, but I believe one particularly tricky passage is this one: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log 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.” – Matthew 7:3-5

For some, the lesson is about how to identify a hypocrite.  For others, the lesson may be that people should mind their own business.  Some might think it has applications for the church’s role toward the sinners of the world.

While there might be good points to be made about those lessons, here I want to focus on what Jesus told those listening to actually do: 1) “take the log out of your own eye,” and 2) “take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  Jesus is definitely not saying His people should always ignore every speck and log.  His mission is to make His church holy, and we participate in that work.  Christians are supposed to help each other move closer to God.  However, there are right ways, and very wrong ways, to remove specks and logs.  He says do (1), then only do (2) afterward.

When saying “first take the log out of your own eye,” I think Jesus is offering two bits of advice.  First, be more concerned about your own sin first before dealing with the sin of others.  Second, take what you learn about overcoming your own logs of sin and apply it to ministering to others with their specks.  The cure for hypocrisy here is not to do nothing about the brother’s speck.  It is to remove our own log first, so we “will see clearly.”

This is a huge topic, but today’s post will briefly cover the first point, and tomorrows will cover the second point.  There’s definitely a lot more that has been, and can be, said.

Me First
By focusing on our own problems first, we might avoid three problems, the first being putting ourselves through endless anxiety about the sins of the world.  Psalm 37:1 advises “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!”  When God chose to love the world, He did so knowing that the world contained nothing but evildoers, and therefore advises not to fret about evil.  He has a plan, and that plan is not that we need to address or fix every problem.

Later in the same Psalm, verse 8 advises: “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”  This means that fretting over the sins of others leads us to wrong emotions and motives, particularly envy and wrath.  Referring back to verse 1, “be not envious of wrongdoers”, because we may be tempted to participate in their wrongdoing.  If we think they’ve done well by sinning, and that there was no negative consequence, we might persuade ourselves to join in out of envy for their “success”.  So, we add the speck in their eye to the log in our own, and everyone is worse off.

Third, if we see that wrongdoers are not punished, and are frustrated by it, we can be tempted to take it into our own hands to “correct” their situation by removing their speck.  In this case, we’re motivated by wrath, instead of a loving desire to do the best for our brother.  Also, others might see that we did this, got away with it, and be tempted to join in (envy again?), and so these 2nd and 3rd points can become a vicious cultural cycle within a community of believers.

In another post, The Desires He Delights to Give, I wrote about verses 4-6 of Psalm 37 and it would a good read for context here, but the summary is that when we seek to please God, we will learn to be less anxious about evildoers, and also feel less envy and wrath.

So, Jesus’ first advice before removing a speck from someone else’s eye seems to be to make sure we have the right motive – love.  Tomorrow, part 2 will briefly talk about how hard it is to remove the real logs in our own eyes.

3 thoughts on “Help! There’s a Log in My Eye! (Part 1)

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