The Speck and the Log
I recall a time when, sitting at a desk in an exam, I turned the paper over and immediately began to look around to see if everybody else felt as bad about the first question as I did. Then I was startled by the teacher’s exhortation: “Never mind looking at others. Just concentrate on yourself!”
Jesus makes a similar point in these verses, using a striking metaphor to instruct His listeners to deal with their own sin before they attempt to point out the sins of others. The word Jesus uses for “speck” often describes very small bits and pieces of straw or wood. In contrast, the word for “log” refers to a load-bearing beam in a house or structure. If I have a log in my eye, it clearly requires my attention more than a speck in someone else’s does.
As fallen creatures, we’re prone to think it’s our responsibility to deal with everybody else’s spiritual condition before dealing with our own. Yet Christ hasn’t called us to be preoccupied primarily and initially with the specks of others. No, He says we must be diligent in examining ourselves in light of Scripture and the standard that He has set.
Jesus’ instruction poses a great challenge. Sometimes we may point out the faults of others under the guise of caring about their spiritual condition. But if we have not first been honest about and ruthless with our own sins, that is hypocrisy! We often fall prey to the mistaken notion that if I can find your flaw and deal with you, then I won’t have to deal with my own issues. It’s far more pleasant to tell someone else about their dreadful condition than it is to face our own.
If we truly want to help others, then we must first be prepared to face the dreadfulness of our own hearts—to acknowledge with Robert Murray M’Cheyne that “the seeds of all sins are in my heart.” When we understand and believe that, then when we go to approach others we will stand on the low ground of genuine love and humility rather than the high ground of presumption. Between those two perspectives there’s all the difference in the world.
20But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22And have mercy on those who doubt; 23save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment7 stained by the flesh.
24Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
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