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“Spot Your Own Plank First”

I’ll never forget the day I was working underneath my rusty, little pickup truck. I was foolishly banging around on the muffler without wearing any eye protection. 

When a shower of rust and dust fell into my face, one tiny flake lodged firmly onto the surface of my eye. After a sleepless night of weeping, wiping, and fruitless searching for the offending speck, I finally went to the local eye doctor. He strapped my head into a harness and touched the flake of rust out—with a needle!

I was happy for the doctor’s skill and for his own sharp vision.

The Lord Jesus tells us how we can help other people when they have a speck in their eye. Before we can be of any help, He says, we must first look to ourselves: “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?…You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:41-42, NIV).

Of course, Jesus is talking about something much more important than just a problem with a speck in a person’s eye. He is talking about criticism of others—finding fault with people around you. He says that those who judge others without first coming to grips with their own sins are hypocrites. Such a person is about as much good as someone who tries to help another with a tiny speck in his eye while a two-by-four is sticking out of his own!

Since it’s always easier to see the faults of others, it may be helpful to ask: “Who’s the worst sinner I know?” Almost anyone can think of people whose outward behavior is worse than his own. Surely there are some whom you know to be more selfish, inconsiderate, mean-spirited, lawless, or vulgar than yourself.

On the other hand, consider that out of all the people in the world, only you and God know, firsthand, the sins and faults that are inside your own heart. Add up, if you can, the wicked actions of any other person, and they still won’t outnumber the sins that you know come from inside you. Others may not see them, but God does. That’s why St. Paul, the great missionary of Biblical times, had to confess in 1 Timothy chapter 1: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am chief [the worst].”

When a person can say from his or her heart, “As far as first-hand evidence goes, I’m the worst sinner I know,” then the gospel of Jesus’ forgiveness comes to the rescue.

Jesus came to die for just that kind of person, and by trusting in Him, all these sins are taken away forever. Repentance and faith in Christ—that’s the only way that the “plank” can be removed from
our eyes.

Knowing this enables us to help others. One who is humbled by his own sins knows “No one needs Jesus more than I do.” That same person, having found God’s grace and forgiveness, has achieved clarity of spiritual sight and can help other people find the same truth about sin as well as the glorious truth about the Savior.

So, next time you’re working in a dusty, rusty environment, wear eye protection. And the next time you are inclined to criticize others, look at yourself first, and then to the Lord for His help.