A Misplaced Plank

“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.” – Jesus, Matthew 7:3 – 5

Laughter can make bitter lessons easier to swallow. Jesus was a carpenter for most of his adult life. He knew a great deal about sawdust and planks! Now imagine you are there listening to this story. It makes a serious point: stop being so critical of others, but it does so in a way that makes you smile. The disciples must have grinned at the picture of the “helpful” man with a hankie trying to take a speck of sawdust out of a man’s eye while they have a two-by-four in their own eye!

Christians are often pictured with grim faces and sour dispositions. That wasn’t the case with Christ, and it shouldn’t be a valid description of us either!

Before we go much farther, we also need to note Jesus isn’t telling us not to judge other people. Just look at the very next verse: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs” (Matthew 7:6). You must make a judgment about a person before you can decide if they are a dog or a pig! No, what the words of Jesus are warning us against is fault-finding – looking for the worst instead of the best in people and situations.

Why are we so ready to find fault with other people? Why do we see the specks in their eyes? It’s not because the speck is so large and glaring it can’t be overlooked. (In that case, it’s a plank and that would be obvious to everyone!) It’s because we are looking for them! Some people are like that. They search out things to become upset about. They aren’t happy unless they are unhappy! (How sick is that?) 

Where does this tendency come from? Do you remember the story of Job? The Lord was pleased with his servant Job. Job was very careful to live an exemplary life, and it made Satan mad because Satan means “the fault finder.” Whose image are we created in when we go around searching for something to be upset about?

In my experience, fault finders share some common traits. They often feel guilty, and so it makes them feel better when other people are guilty too. 

Have you noticed there is a world of difference between constructive criticism and finding fault? Fault finders have trouble with their self-image. They mistakenly believe if they can tear someone else down, it will build themselves up!

Sadly, criticism not only wounds other people, it deeply hurts the critic at the same time. To look for the worst blinds us to the best! Someone once said, “The keener our eye become to the faults of others, the blinder they become to what is wrong with ourselves.”

Finally, the faultfinder is often friendless. Who wants to be around someone who is always finding the worst in people and situations? So what can be done? If you see people staring at you, it might not be because you are the smartest man in the room. Look in the mirror. There might just be a telephone pole where it doesn’t belong!

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