Since the age of five, I have had horrible eyesight. My kindergarten art teacher was the first to notice. I had difficulty seeing the image on the screen we were supposed to draw and she retorted, “Maybe you need glasses.” So, after my parents confirmed that I was indeed having trouble seeing the blackboard in school, they took me to get my first set of glasses. One can only imagine my horror at the prospect of being the first person in my kindergarten class to enjoy the nickname of “four-eyes.” The glasses were large, thick, and resembled Coke bottles of yesteryear.
I was relieved when, two years later, I received a new pair of glasses that were much smaller and not as conspicuous. In fact, so familiar was I to bulky glasses, that I panicked one day when I could not find my prized new pair. They were so small that I had taken them off and lost them accidentally. I searched high and low, under my pillow, between the couch cushions, on the bathroom counter. They were nowhere to be found.
Finally, when I was sure that they had vanished into thin air and had prepared myself for the spanking of the century for so carelessly losing my new pair of glasses, I tearfully approached my father with my predicament. “Dad, I can’t find my glasses.” I couldn’t bear to watch him reach for his belt, so I closed my eyes and braced for my all-but-certain whipping…only to hear him reply, “What? You haven’t lost them at all! They’re sitting on your nose!” I had searched every nook and cranny of our house looking for my glasses in vain…when all the time they were literally right in front of me. I was seeing with 20/20 vision, but was still blind.
Christians are often like that. We evidently have great clarity and insight when it comes to the sins of others. We can diagnose problems, give explanations, and prescribe what must be done to get back on track. But when it comes to our own sins, we look quizzically to the skies and ask, “What sins?” It is to this brand of spiritual farsightedness that Jesus spoke in Matt. 7:1-5. In the mind of our Lord, pointing out the mistakes of others when we have glaring weaknesses of our own makes as much sense as looking past a log in our own eye to remove the sawdust in another’s. I am sure that Jesus had no problem coming up with this illustration; he had spent more than twenty years in his father’s carpentry shop. Jesus knew first-hand the hazards of mashed thumbs from an errant hammer and the haze of sawdust that hung in the air of the shop. How many times had he paused his work to get a speck of literal sawdust out of his eye? It seems natural, therefore, that Jesus would turn to such a vivid illustration to press his point home. Sometimes we suffer from spiritual farsightedness and are in need of a new prescription from the great physician.
When it comes to seeing the weaknesses and faults of others, we seemingly enjoy 20/20 vision; yet all the while, we are blind to our own mistakes. To borrow a phrase from Jas. 3:10, “My brothers, this should not be.” You and I are not candidates to help others with their sins until we have come to grips with our own. On the other hand, what God has done in my life to help me become a better person makes me the perfect candidate to help others with their own life. It begins with my looking in the mirror and removing the 2×4 lodged in my spiritual eye. Only then am I equipped to help others handle the speck of sawdust in their own.
I want to encourage you to try something just for today. Every time you feel yourself making judgments about others and condemning them in your mind, alert yourself and simply pause. Remind yourself that you could very well be responding to a reflection of yourself that you see in another person. You might quickly discover that you suffer from spiritual farsightedness. You are able to gaze into the lives of others with 20/20 clarity, but are hopelessly blind to your own mistakes.