“. . . 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 7:5
It has been nearly forty years since this incident occurred, so I have long forgotten the details of the matter, but one day out of frustration I found myself confronting a couple of my colleagues who were doing, or not doing, something that was inhibiting my ability to do my job. I recall, to my great surprise, how they listened patiently and promised to take care of the matter, which they did. But just as I was about to walk away, they summoned me back. While you’re here, they said, there is something we need to discuss with you, and they commenced to point out something I was doing, or failing to do, that was also impeding them from getting their work done.
It was one of those embarrassing moments I have never forgotten, for even though my complaint was legitimate, so was theirs. Worse, though, was that I had failed to see – or more likely, refused the admit – that there was a plank in my own eye before pointing out the speck in theirs. And while that was certainly not the first time I ever committed such a grievous sin, it may be one of the few times I had to face up to being caught in the act.
“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?” Jesus challenged his listeners. “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.”
It just makes sense, doesn’t it, that if my neighbor neglects to mow his lawn in the summer or rake his leaves in the fall, what credibility do I have to complain to him if my dog is keeping him awake barking all night, or if I have allowed my tree limbs to fall onto his rooftop? Once I tend to my own mess, then perhaps we can discuss his.
Fortunately, my colleagues and I worked out our conflicts quickly and amicably, while still remaining good friends. And while that was hardly the last time I have failed to take the plank out of my own eye before pointing out a speck of dust in someone else’s, it certainly raised my awareness of the value in doing so.