I JUST came in from vacuum cleaning my lawn. Yes, my lawn. I can tell what you’re thinking, but let me explain.
The thing is, yesterday we had a builder at the house fitting some timber, and he had to reduce the size of the wood panel, so he used a power planer… out in the garden. So our lawn was covered in woodchip.
Ask yourself, how would you get woodchip off a lawn? I tried everything more sensible, and all the things that would have made me seem like a normal neighbour out in the garden, but in the end the grass felt just like a carpet and so that’s how I treated it.
Now what’s that got to do with the Bible? The Lord Jesus had something to say about first impressions, and especially about pointing the finger.
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? (Luke 6:41).
Here is someone with roughly the same problem as me—a problem removing woodchips. Jesus is telling a parable to show that we shouldn’t judge other people’s motives. Someone may look stupid. They may even appear to have done something with wicked intent. But until we address our own inadequacy (the plank) we’re in no position to judge someone else.
Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye (verse 42).
My example was perhaps not as fitting as the one Jesus used. Here Jesus is creating such an obvious story that we can’t help but agree with him. We see that we (who do wrong things quite often) would be hypocritical if we turned our nose up at others when they do wrong things.
By increasing the size of the woodchip in our eye to a plank, Jesus drives home the message: “Your own sin disqualifies you from judging other people!”
With this in mind, we could take a look at my lawn incident again. Can you perhaps think of an occasion when you needed to get something done and had no idea how to go about it? Perhaps you started with all the easy solutions and none of them worked. Then as you got more desperate for a solution you started to do things you wouldn’t normally do?
In the Bible we’re told about David and the hard time he had getting away from King Saul. Saul totally had it in for David:
Then Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away from Saul’s presence; and he drove the spear into the wall. So David fled and escaped that night
(1 Samuel 19:10).
I really hope you have never had anything like this happen to you, but do you think you can imagine what it is like to have the most powerful man in the land after you? Are there even any neat and effective solutions to that big a problem?
We’re told that this continued for a long time, and in the end David buckled under the pressure, and took a most unusual and apparently foolish course of action:
And David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines; and Saul will despair of me, to seek me anymore in any part of Israel. So I shall escape out of his hand” (1 Samuel 27:1).
You can see the depths of David’s anguish, can’t you? Here he really believes there are no more sensible solutions, and only the desperate, foolish solutions are worth trying any more. David heads into enemy territory and…
Guess what? It actually worked! He became the favourite soldier of the King of the Philistines: “Then Achish answered and said to David, ‘I know that you are as good in my sight as an angel of God’…” (1 Samuel 29:9).
We could look at David and say “What a silly thing to do. I would never have done that.” But to do so would be failing to see past the plank in our own eye. God is not like that. He took David’s faltering, foolish decision, and made it good. So let’s leave the judging to God, and hope He is similarly gracious with us.
Robin de Jongh