For example: the speck and the log. Many of us who have grown up in Christian circles have probably heard a notebook full of sermons about the hypocrisy of trying to remove someone else’s splinter while a tree trunk is sticking out of your eye! Perhaps right now we can picture a rather comical cartoon sketch of the doomed-to-fail attempt. But I wonder if we have allowed that image to dominate our thinking so much that we have missed another aspect of the analogy.
Have you ever understood this passage to say, “If my sin is as big as a log, then I won’t be able to help others with their splinters”? Although that understanding of Christ’s teaching is true, the application of this text is broader than that alone. If we base our need or ability to deal with sin on the apparent size of sin, at some point we will inevitably think, “So-and-so is the one with the log in his eye, and my sin is only the splinter.” If only that were the point, we could all rest easy … because obviously, everybody else’s sins are worse than ours! However, if we were intended to measure our sins against someone else’s, there would be a problem … because we call that ‘judging.’ And Christ just dealt with that very thing in verses 1 and 2 of this same chapter.
So if the motivation behind this text is not the need to compare our sin to someone else’s sin, what is it? To answer that question, there is a reality that we must understand: the sin we have in our eye is the log, not because it’s worse than another’s, but because it’s ours. Our first responsibility towards sin is, by God’s grace, to deal with our own. And, by the way, if we ever find ourselves thinking of our personal sin as splinters, we have forgotten our own depravity, God’s holiness, and the terrible price that both demanded.
By continuing this train of thought, there will actually be two logs and two splinters in this illustration. Each individual will see his own sin as the log and the other’s sin as the splinter. Imagine the impact it would have in today’s church if each believer was willing to see his own sin as the log! Imagine the impact you could have in today’s church if you were willing to see your own sin as the log! But let me warn you, this application of truth is much easier agreed with in theory than in practice. The natural response to seeing ours and others’ sin is to compare the two, and we tend to be much more lenient with ourselves.
So the next time you think about this passage (or you find yourself comparing yourself to someone else), remember that the only person with a log in their eye is you! And then don’t leave it there!