Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 7:3 “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but
considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Jesus here teaches spiritual ophthalmology. “Mote” is old Anglo-Saxon for “a small particle.” Now we usually use the word splinter. “Beam” refers to a log.
Some interpret our Lord’s graphic word picture to mean we must not speak to others about their sin (splinter) if we are guilty of a bigger crime (log). In other words, we should correct only those people we are better than. This interpretation has many inherent problems. Splinters and logs cannot be a statement on big versus little sins. No sins are little, “for there is no little God to sin against” (Henry).
Some interpret Christ’s word picture to mean, don’t correct anyone guilty of the same sin we are guilty of. Suppose someone and I commit the exact same sin. From my perspective, I should deem the sin as a splinter in his eye, but as a log in mine, for I must show mercy toward others, but execute ruthless judgment against myself. The basic premise may be sound, but probably is not Jesus’ intent here.
I humbly suggest a log is implanted in our eye when we transgress the three parameters: judging only words and deeds, and without harshness (7:15a,16a; 6:34c). When we usurp the prerogative of God, or have a harsh spirit, we immediately disqualify ourselves from having any right to judge anyone, however small their failure may appear. The next verse highlights the importance of this truth.
Matt. 7:4 “Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out
of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Dealing with sin in others is a delicate operation, as difficult to master as eye surgery. No organ is more sensitive than the eye. At the least touch, eyeballs recoil, eyelids close. When my daughter’s eyesight was restored to 20/20, doctors and nurses showed expertise in many areas–cleanliness, compassion, experience, a steady hand. “Transfer all that into the spiritual realm. You are going to handle a soul, you are going to touch the most sensitive thing in man” (Lloyd-Jones).
When handling sin in others, do not bungle the attempt and drive them farther away from God. A gentle, delicate, clean hand is needed for any spiritual ophthalmologist to successfully slide a splinter out of someone else’s eye.
Judging hearts and motives, and loveless harshness, create a serious log of fog in the eye, and lead to a proud, harsh hand which causes surgical failure. Success is contained in the ability to see clearly the permitted parameters of judging only words and deeds, and of a love that truly cares for a person’s well-being.
When judgment of others goes beyond words, deeds, and gentleness, our vision becomes distorted. “He that cleanses a blot with blurred fingers will make a greater blot” (Quarles, in Bib. Ill.). Never proceed in a blur. One cold morning my dad did not scrape away all the snow and ice on his car windshield. He cleared a little peep-hole, thinking he knew the way to church well enough to drive essentially from memory. In a few blocks, his car suddenly came to a crashing stop. He had plowed into a parked truck he could not see, and totalled his car.
Always be sure you can see your way clearly when handling others. Proceed cautiously. Correcting faults in others is like trying to extract a splinter from someone else’s eyeball. A clumsy, blurry-eyed surgeon truly makes things worse.
Matt. 7:5a “Thou hypocrite,. . .”
Moral failures in others, splinters in their eye, are no minor matter; neither are our log-size sins of usurping God’s rightful place and of being harsh.
The latter are “the sins of the religious.” Being God’s children, we presume on this familiarity to take on His prerogative. Being God’s servants, we know we are to have a deep love and interest in the welfare of others, and we have learned to play the part of appearing distressed upon hearing about their blemish, but are we not sometimes actually glad to discover it and too eager to rail on them?
It is serious to have an unkind heart pretending to act kindly, and dangerous to pose as a friend, while really having a lack of love. It is wrong to pretend to be an enemy to sin, yet not be an enemy to our own sins, as Jesus’ next words show.
Matt. 7:5b “. . .first cast out the beam out of thine own eye;. . .”
If we are truly concerned about being right and true before God, we will deal with sin in ourselves. Being harsh on the flaws of others, but not on “the sins of the religious” in us, is a huge log in our eye.
Getting rid of this log is not easy. To begin with, it is hard to pinpoint. It is easy to see faults in others, but not the proud, harsh spirit in ourselves. Self-righteousness contains its own selective blindness toward self. Seeing through the ego-fog requires constant scrutiny. We never relax our efforts to grow in grace.
Saints with integrity reserve their strictest judgments and highest standards for themselves. People with hearts for God seek to avoid “the sins of the religious” by keeping conscience at work, ever enacting self-judgment and self-correction.
Self-analysis is a prerequisite to analyzing others. The only one fit to judge another is one who severely judges self. We need to harshly tread on our own sin before gently walking on those of others. When seeking to restore others, consider thyself (GL 6:1), begin with self-examination.
Ask yourself, am I overstepping the parameters, going past words and deeds? Usurping God’s prerogative is heady stuff and can become an ego trip. Be ever humble, never haughty. Till humbled to the dust, we cannot judge others.
Ask yourself, am I being gentle, is the tone in my voice subdued? Never be harsh.
Do we have to be perfect? No. In fact, people do not expect us to be perfect. They want us to be genuine and gentle. Perfection is not necessary. Rather, our spirit must humbly be within the parameters Jesus has set forth in these verses.
We can know we have cast the log out of our eye when we have with reckless abandon judged ourselves before God. Our Master, cutting us no slack, holds the standard high. He hammers (JR 23:29) His nails into the quick of our being.
The Christian message goads us to decision. We never hear its challenges and remain the same. Our hearts either break, as at Pentecost (AC 2:37), or burst, as when the religious leaders, exploding with anger, rushed upon Stephen (AC 7:54ff). God’s word ever carries its own sharp edge, goring through “the crusty consciences” (Trapp) of our hearts. Responding to this blade, we hearken or harden. Physician, heal thyself, especially when being a spiritual ophthalmologist.