Can I be honest with you? It is easy to see the flaws in others, and it doesn’t take much effort. (You can say “amen” to that. No one is listening.) Often, the challenge isn’t seeing the flaw but how you handle what you see. Thankfully Jesus has something to say about this, and it all has to do with planks in your eye and specks in your brother’s eye. Let’s look closer at this so we can learn how to address our faults and the faults of others.
Where Does the Bible Say?
You will find this conversation about planks and specks in a broader conversation about judging in Matthew 7. Here is the full context so you can understand the point Jesus was making.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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 7:1-5)
For context, Jesus used this image to discuss hypocrisy in how people judge. In this case, to judge to condemn. Jesus is speaking about how we can condemn the actions and behaviors of others but somehow miss our own sins in the process. This happens all the time; unfortunately, people in the church are no better at this than people in the world. If I am being honest, the church’s people might be worse. If you want a fuller meaning of what it means to judge, I explain that more in this article.
Is Jesus Using Humor to Make a Point?
I don’t know if Jesus intended this image to be humorous, but he did use a strong metaphor to paint a memorable picture. He created dramatic imagery to drive the point home. When others’ sins come up, the initial response is often to judge and condemn. When this happens, it’s very easy to become self-righteous. If you wonder what self-righteousness looks like, here is one example.
When you hear about someone else’s sin and respond, “I don’t understand why they did that, I would never do something like that,” you are moving into self-righteousness. We are all surrounded by circumstances that can cause us to fall if we’re not careful. If we fail to recognize this, we can easily slip into condemnation mode, where mercy and grace become strangely absent.
Where Else Does Jesus Talk about Hypocrisy?
Jesus also talks about hypocrisy in Matthew 23, this time about the Pharisees.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:25-26)
Looking at just these two passages, you can see that hypocrisy comes in many forms. One form is treating people with a different measure than you treat yourself. You may treat people you like with one standard and others with a different standard. Another form is when we position ourselves as something we are not. Consequently, Jesus tells us to take the plank out of our eyes, then remove the speck from our brother’s eyes.
Does the Size of the Flaw Matter?
Jesus isn’t comparing the sin’s size in this passage. His point is to make sure you judge your own sin before you judge someone else’s.
What is the value of seeing your own sin before you try to judge another person’s sin? When you see your own flaws, it becomes hard to condemn the flaws in others. Self-righteous people are often the harshest critics; most of the time, they have the biggest sins. The problem is they often don’t see them because they are too busy looking at the flaws in others. When you see yourself as a sinner saved by God’s grace and recognize your own shortcomings, it becomes easier to show grace to another who has fallen into sin.
After we judge ourselves first, we can deal properly with others’ sins. If we don’t, then we become nothing more than self-righteous Pharisees. You can read Jesus’ opinion about the Pharisees throughout the gospels.
What Might Be the ‘Plank In Your Eye’ That Must Be Removed?
Jesus isn’t speaking about a specific sin when he refers to the plank in your eye. Planks come in all shapes and sizes. The planks might be planks of pride, planks of arrogance, planks of racism, planks of selfishness, or planks of greed. Any sin a human can commit could potentially be a plank in your eye. Galatians tells us what a sinful nature’s acts look like.
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like…” (Galatians 5:19-21)
Any of these can become a plank in your eye. The moment you say, “this could never be me,” you are carrying the plank of self-righteousness and pride.
When you remove the plank from your eye, you can properly remove the speck from your brother’s eye. The proper way to deal with sin in another brother’s life is to restore them gently (Galatians 6:1). Yet the road to this type of restoration comes through the humility of seeing your own failures and trying to help someone else through theirs.
How to ‘Remove The Plank Out of Your Eye’ Today
If you want to begin removing the plank in your eye today, just think of one thing. Think of all the sins you have committed over the years. All the sins you have confessed over the years and all your sins that God has forgiven over the years. Don’t think of the sins of others. Think of your own. When you consider all the mercy and grace you have received, it becomes much easier to show that same level of mercy and grace to someone else. The bottom line is to deal with the sin in other people’s lives the same way God deals with sin in your own life. There is no other way to remove a plank.
Without this awareness, it is very easy to become a judge. However, remember what Jesus said in this chapter. The way you judge others is the same way you will be judged. If you show no mercy and are quick to condemn, then don’t be surprised when you are met with the same when you sin. In your dealings with others, be quick to judge yourself and remove the planks in your eyes. When you do this, as Jesus said, you will be positioned to help your brother or sister.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/kwasny221
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture’s context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God’s Word in relation to your life today.