Tears From the Plank in My Eye

LatheArtistSmallI’ve cut and sanded a fair amount of lumber over the years in my attempt to do home improvement projects. Handling wood can result in getting a speck of sawdust in the eye. It may be a speck, but it feels like a plank!

Jesus, having grown up in his stepdad Joseph’s carpenter shop and then presumably, as the oldest child, taking over the family business at Joseph’s death, knew about sawdust in the eyes feeling like planks. One time Jesus used his early years of experience with wood to make a point when He taught, 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?” (Matthew 7:4)

I’ve preached and taught on the passage a number of times, as probably have you. I’ll admit that my motive often was to help my parishioners see how wrong it was for them to be nitpicking, complaining, and judgmental people. I was missing the right application of the text, that the message was first meant for me! Jesus’ whole point was that we’re not to convict others so much as to be convicted ourselves. In seeking to drive home the message for my parishioners’ benefit rather than my own I was inadvertently demonstrating the very sin Jesus was illustrating! My ego prompts me to hope my listeners didn’t see that.

Oswald Chambers states in his June 1 devotion in My Utmost for His Highest,When God wants to show you what human nature is like apart from Himself, He has to show it to you in yourself.” We pastors are quick to point out that we understand fallen human nature very well because of our observation and frequent experience of it in the lives of our parishioners. Silly us; our first and most graphic example is closer to us than any of our parishioners, it is we ourselves!

In the latter years of my ministry leading up to my retirement I came to see more clearly that I am in the best position to pray for someone’s struggle with sin when I’ve first been humbled by the need for God’s grace with the sin in my own life. My heart must tear up over the “speck” of sin in myself more than the “plank” of sin I see in others.

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