by George Vink of Visalia , California
During the reign of Oliver Cromwell, the British government began to run low on silver for coins. Being the Prime Minister, Lord Cromwell sent his men to the local cathedral to see if they could find any precious metal there. They returned and reported, “The only silver we can find is in the statues of the saints standing in the corners.” It didn’t take long before Cromwell replied, “Good! We’ll melt down the saints and put them into circulation. “
Hear it clearly and be convicted. Saints in circulation! That’s where saints need to be. That’s where it gets tough going, but that’s what’s needed. Saints in circulation!
Being in church doesn’t do it. It’s out there that our resolve to be Christ-like gets tested. With a daily application in mind, I’d like to build a little today on an essential aspect of the Christian life as it relates to self-control. A recent speaker at the Mt. Hermon conference noted along with some other statements, “A critical spirit never improved anyone!” Certainly, a most wonderful and appropriate observation!
The seriousness of Christ’s lesson in our passage is not minimized by His use of humor. Think about it! Picture it, just for a moment! Almost a surreal picture! Jesus uses a hyperbole to teach a truth we all need to hear. (Our English students may recall learning that a hyperbole is an intended exaggeration to make a point or teach a lesson.) Well, Jesus is certainly teaching a lesson here, isn’t he?
Jesus is addressing self-complacency as well as a critical spirit that comes from a sense of self-righteousness. A word picture that occasions a smile if you take some time to imagine it. Just try it: A huge beam, larger than a 4×8, twice the size of a 2×4, sticking in someone’s eye, and with that beam or log stuck in there, probing in someone else’s for a splinter. What a picture! What a hyperbole!
As Christians who sing, “Amazing Grace that saved a wretch like ME,” we’ve got to be careful. Judging of others, when it’s needed, must be done humbly and gracefully. We need to be aware how to do it in a way suited to saints who want to be Christ-like. You know how irritating it can be to have a speck of sawdust or dirt in your eye. All kinds of uncomfortable watering, tears etc. Your vision blurs and you lose focus. Well, knowing that, think then what a beam in your eye will do!
Jesus teaches what He does in the context, in the presence of a gathering of teachers and leaders. He wants to make it clear, that these leaders must see life rightly, or what will their followers do? He knows what we know too, that special responsibilities come with being a leader or a teacher. Especially leaders must learn to have a perspective that’s formed also by, “But for the grace of God, there go I!”
And then, we all, leaders and followers, teachers and students, need to have a way of thinking and doing that reflects clearly our discipleship, our being saints in Christ. It follows naturally, that also our criticizing of others has to show that we are Christians, and we want to do it, Christ-like!
We’ve got to be so careful about coming across as self-righteous, as if we’re without fault! Once again, it’s so important to make it clear that being a Christian has to have application in our daily lives. It’s not a Sunday religion! It’s a 24 -7 (24 hours, 7 days a week) proposition for all of us. And, regretfully, fault finding is a flaw all too frequently featured in folks who call themselves Christian. But one wonders sometimes if they realize the damage that these folks are doing to their witness. After all, they may be the only Bible that their neighbors are reading or watching.
Notice again how Jesus is teaching us! He does it by asking questions, involving us in the process. “Why do you do this looking at the speck in your brother’s eye and don’t notice the plank that’s stuck in your own?” There’s no missing it! We need to ask ourselves, “Don’t we realize that our brother or our sister also has a sign; a warning on his forehead or across her shoulders,” “Construction Zone!” or “Under Construction. Not Yet Finished!”
Some of us may recall a wonderful little song that our children used to play or sing. It was called, “Kids under Construction. ” You’d hear sawing and hammering etc. All of the sounds of a construction site! All of these sounds and words making it clear, they’re not done yet. Well, isn’t that true for all of us? So today, tomorrow too, don’t be too quick to listen for someone else. Not here to hear this message, this word of encouragement for someone else. Remember the words of Jesus recorded in John 8, when He’s dealing so compassionately with the woman caught in adultery, “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Ouch! Time to slink off like the older men in the scene!
We hear the words of Jesus as those who sing, have sung with the passion of its truth, “Amazing Grace which saved a wretch like me, a sinner like me, failing-to-make- the-grade like me!” So, hear again Jesus’ question: “WHY do you see the speck in your brother’s eye?” Why do we see it so readily in the eye of a fellow member of the church? In the eye of a family member? In the eye of the fellow worker? In the eye of my spouse? In the eye of______, fill in your favorite person to criticize!
Maybe you should be asking, “HOW can you even see it with the beam in your own?” What a picture! A deadly serious Jesus is teaching, using a humorous picture. He’s telling us that we’ve got to look at our own lives first and see what’s happening. And, as we become more humble before God, aware of our own faults, we will become more loving, more compassionate towards our brothers, our neighbors, our family.
Blindness to our own planks, our own favorite beams, reflects a sin of selfishness which is really the root of sin itself. Because we’re sinful, we fail to see what we should. Or, we see it for others as well as in others, and still fail to apply it to ourselves! Sadly so! And yet, it should not be so! Hear Jesus speak to you then about it all. He asks: “WHY? HOW? WHY do you? HOW dare you?” Are we really so spiritually blind? Don’t we realize that true reform, true change begins at home! When you begin there, you’ve got a plenty big task to do.
Hear again verses 37, 38a “Do not judge… do not condemn… forgive… give and it will be given you.” The standard is set. Be ever so careful!
True discipleship calls for self-discipline! And, that’s not just a fancy play on words. It’s of the essence. In the church, in the kingdom, so much more is accomplished when it’s one recovered sinner helping another, knowing that “except for God’s grace, there go I.”
So we look at our own lives, each of us, let’s not look at anyone else’s! And, then let’s make sure we ask ourselves, “How am I doing?” “What is the plank in my own eye?” Or, even more boldly, maybe your friend or spouse can help you determine what it is, if you dare ask them.
Oh, the damage that’s done by those who are constantly looking in the eyes of others! A critical spirit can do so much damage. A critical spirit can and does discourage so quickly! It’s an evil thing that destroys relationships, poisons people’s lives and tears down what Christ would have us build up! The Bible warns against it with some frequency. And, if we’re serious about discipleship, then we’ve got to examine our lives and see what makes us do it so readily, and sometimes, what seems so eagerly.
We’ve got to leave more judgment in God’s hands. It’s not ours to do! We’ve got to take time and effort to understand other people before we decide that they’re “unfit, unworthy, or whatever!”
After all, who of us can see the heart? And while we’re at it, it’s a good thing to look into our own motives. What makes us so critical? What is it that makes us so eager to find fault? You may not be surprised to find that all too often it’s because of how you’re feeling about yourself. And when feeling inferior, we find that going on the offense is the best defense. Sad!
We don’t build ourselves up by knocking others down. An old, but true saying puts it this way, “The more dirt you throw; the more ground you lose!” So true! So true!
As a Christian, make sure you check your motive, deep inside yourself. Ask: “WHY AM I DOING IT?” Remember, if you want to go looking for faults, you’ll find them. You’ll find them, whether in families or in churches, in public figures or neighbors. They’re there! Rest assured.
If you come to church and expect to find fault with the service, rest assured, you can find it. You’ll find fault, if you want to do so, whether it’s the music or the preacher, the usher or the greeter, or whatever.
BUT, if you heed the words of Jesus, then you’ll do things differently! Remember, a faultfinder, having a plank in his own eye, isn’t seeing things straight. It distorts his view. And, more importantly, Jesus has strong language for such people. Can you hear him say it? It’s strong! It’s “HYPOCRITE!” If it applies, it means that you’re just pretending to be something that you’re not! SHAME ON YOU!
Jesus’ remedy is simple. Take care of your own house. Plenty of logs/planks/ beams to be found there! And, having experienced the grace of forgiveness, share it with others. You’re not in the business of plank/log removal. That’s what Jesus does. Remember, true reform, making any significant change begins at home. Then you can do what saints do – what disciples of Jesus must do.
Let’s conclude with Beck’s little poem:
By grace one day I came to see, that it would wiser be
To cease my criticizing “them,” and right what’s wrong with me.
With God’s help, you can do so! So can I. Do we have any choice?