Sawdust (Matthew 7:3-5)

Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash

Jesus continues to build His case for avoiding foolish summary judgments of  other  people, “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.”

CS Keener said, “A splinter or wood chip in one’s eye might render one blind, but a plank imbedded in one’s eye would certainly render one blind.” Anyone who has ever had a speck of sawdust in one’s eye can testify that it makes seeing painful if not impossible. How much more a plank? The hyperbole makes the mental image rather amusing, but the spiritual implication is anything except humorous. Keener argues that Christ’s point is that rationalizing away one’s guilt just blinds yourself. It does not help to point out another sins or to speak critically of them when you yourself have the bigger problem of refusing to even recognize your sin. It is a case of a totally blinded person promising to help someone who is almost blinded. Rather than ease the other’s discomfort, it is likely that irreparable damage will be done. That to both parties too, for the Law said, “Cursed is the man who leads the blind astray on the road.” 

Yet Jesus is not arguing against trying to help others overcome sin or see their own folly. He is not telling His disciples to ignore each other’s plight, but that we must, “first take the plank out of [our] own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Jesus’ comments indicate that our priority is to be our own spiritual vision – our own walk with God  – SO THAT we can help others. “Once we have dealt with our own sins, we are then in a position gently and lovingly to confront and try to restore others who have erred.

Of course, it does little good to take a plank out of our own eye and leave a handful of specks/splinters behind. Indeed it has been noted that, “It is easy to try to help a brother with his faults just so we can cover up our own sins! People who are constantly criticizing others are usually guilty of something worse in their own lives.” 

To truly help others we need perfectly clear vision, and to that point it must be recognized that our spiritual vision and the clarity of that vision is not as an end in itself. We are never freed from spiritual blindness just so we can enjoy a better life, and to think that we are blessed solely for our own enjoyment or that 

 is to have a rather large speck still embedded in our retina. Our spiritual vision is so that we can help others as our Father helps us. For God had said, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”  This is exactly what Jesus Himself was doing. In His very first sermon, He testified, “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind.”

Those who have dealt with their sin, who have been forgiven, who have been filled with the Holy Spirit, who are walking daily with Christ – cannot simply leave others to go their way. We have a holy obligation to help, but to do so gently and with much grace. As Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” 


Our own sins ought to appear greater to us than the same sins in others.

Matthew Henry

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Ensure your eyes are clear of obstacles before helping others ‘see clearly’.  

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