‘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, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7 : 3 – 5
Strangely, my first awareness of this particular passage came from the 1970s stage musical, Godspell, which I saw in London in my very early teens. The show often follows Biblical text very closely and these three verses are told in the form of a joke between Jesus and Judas. “I say, I say, I say, how do you remove a speck of sawdust from your brother’s eye when all the while there is a big plank in your own?” … “I don’t know, how do you remove a speck of sawdust from your brother’s eye when all the while there is a big plank in your own?”… Judas wasn’t wildly enamoured with the punchline of verse 5! This exchange obviously stuck with me as I still remember it more than 45 years later.
In this passage Jesus is using exaggeration and, perhaps, a little humour to ram home a point. He’s serious about this hypocrisy thing and the punchline is quite a wake-up call. No-one likes to be called a hypocrite!
We aren’t being asked never to challenge anyone’s behaviour or opinions but we are being told, in no uncertain terms, to recognise our own faults first and to address them. It is simply too tempting and too easy to find fault in others but to overlook where our own behaviour fails to live up to God’s expectations.
So how do we go about getting a ‘plankectomy’? Perhaps through re-examining our behaviours, bringing our failings to God in prayer and asking for God’s help as we resolve to do better. This will, of course, be a repeat prescription… We are grateful for an endlessly loving and forgiving God!
Prayer: Loving God, we fall short of your expectations so often and in so many ways. We know that we can be quick to judge others whilst, at the same time, saying or doing things that we know are wrong. We ask for your forgiveness and for your strength as we seek to better reflect your love in this world. Amen.
Action: See if you can identify what might be a plank for you in the context of this passage. Write it down. Acknowledge it. Bring it to God.