In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said the following:
“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”(Matthew 7:3-5).
In this passage Jesus is telling us to humble ourselves and correct our own shortcomings before we address the shortcomings we see in others. This is not a stand against us exercising discernment and helping others overcome sin. This is a stand for us being better equipped to do such from a place of compassion and grace, rather than from a position of self-righteousness, after we have dealt with the fault in our own lives. To reverse this order is a form of hypocrisy.
So what is this “plank” in my eye and this “speck” in my brother’s eye?
Well, the “plank” is any shortcoming, fault, stronghold, sin that is in your life. The “speck” is any shortcoming, fault, stronghold, sin in the life of another person. Clearly, there is an attempt to depict a difference in the size of these objects. But this difference in size is not a reflection of your sin being “worse” than another’s. It’s a reflection of the proximity of the shortcoming to you. The closer an object is to you physically, the larger it will appear to you. The same is true spiritually as it relates to our sin problem.
Consider the following:
The other day I was talking to a co-worker when out of nowhere a huge insect decided to set out to attack me! I screamed, swatted, and ran to the other side of the room. That thing was so close I felt it and so huge I wanted to get out of harm’s way as soon as possible!
I noticed my co-worker was as calm as I was panicked. Once I moved to the other side of the room and surveyed the area, I realized I was running from a fly. A small benign fly. It looked so huge to me because it was so close to my eye. My co-worker knew it was a fly the entire time and didn’t quite understand my dramatic response.
What a difference proximity makes!
God wants us to respond to the sin in our own lives the way we would to a venomous insect! He wants us to, through the power of the Holy Spirit, scream, swat, and run to the other side of the situation and get out of harm’s way as soon as possible. Others may not understand our dramatic response to sin, but God wants us to realize how huge our own shortcomings are, given how close and impactful they are to our witness and our ability to carry out His will of us.
Once we confess our sins, turn from them, accept God’s forgiveness, and implement boundaries, while embracing some form of accountability, we will find ourselves well on our way to walking in victory over many of the strongholds that have held us back for so long. Then, from that position, we are better equipped to help another from a place of compassion and grace.