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Jesus and the Laughable Log

October 5, 2020 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 6:41-42 (NRSV)

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,” when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

Focus

Jesus uses a humorous illustration to make a serious point. Before you offer to take the splinter out of your neighbor’s eye, he says, deal with the log in your own eye. Yes, we are to care for others, to help them deal with their “stuff.” But we do so as people who acknowledge our own “stuff.” Therefore, we help others from a posture of humility and graciousness, not self-righteousness or judgmentalism.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

If you’re used to reading the Bible seriously, something I practice regularly, as you know, you may at first miss something in Luke 6:41-42. Surely Jesus is making a serious point, and I’ll get to that in a minute. But he is doing it in a humorous way.

First of all, the picture of someone with a log in their eye can be amusing, as long as you’re not envisioning a real log in a real eye. That would actually be quite painful and not at all funny. But the real humor in this passage is found in what the log-eyed person does. They not only notice a splinter in the eye of another person, but even offer to remove the splinter, meanwhile ignoring their own log. That is rather humorous in an ironic way, don’t you think? (Note: I am using the word “splinter” rather than “speck,” following the translation of the Common English Bible. “Splinter,” one meaning of the Greek word karphos, accentuates the contrast with “log” in a way that “speck” misses. Both splinters and logs are pieces of wood, one quite large, the other quite small.)

Though Jesus’s imagery in Luke 6:41-42 is humorous, what he describes is also rather sad. Far too often we do point out the faults of others without dealing with our own considerable faults. Ironically, we can be especially aware of those actions of others that are common in our own lives. For example, I am easily upset with people who are impatient. Yet, if I’m honest, I have to admit that impatience is one of my strengths (or weaknesses, you might say). Perhaps I notice impatience in others and feel so critical of them precisely because of my own “log” of impatience.

Jesus is clear that we should deal with our own “stuff” before we offer to help others with their “stuff.” But notice that Jesus did not say “Ignore the splinter in your neighbor’s eye.” Rather, he told us to remove our log before helping our neighbor with their splinter. Thus, we who follow Jesus are to help each other when it comes to spiritual growth and moral living. We’re not to stand back and ignore each other’s splinters, since splinter removal is essential to discipleship.

What Jesus teaches in this passage can be abused. There are plenty of Christians who are deeply committed to removing the splinters from the eyes of their family members, coworkers, neighbors, political adversaries, and fellow church members. Judgmentalism and self-righteousness often flourish in Christian communities, I’m embarrassed to say. But this will not be true if we remember and deal with our personal logs. If I am aware of my own shortcomings, especially the big ones, if I know that I am saved by grace, not works, then my splinter assistance will come with humility and mercy. I won’t approach you as if I had perfect vision, but rather as one who, by grace, has had the giant logs removed from his eyes and therefore is able, by grace, to help you with your splinters.

Reflect

Have you ever had someone offer to help you with the splinter in your eye? How did you feel? What happened?

Have you ever dealt with the logs in your eyes? What were these logs? How did you deal with them?

Are you willing to risk caring for others if it means helping them with their splinters, assuming that you acknowledge and are working on your logs?

Act

Set aside some time for prayerful reflection. Ask the Lord if there are logs in your eyes that need to come out. If you identify any of these, talk to God about them. Ask for forgiveness, cleansing, and help to live “loglessly.” You may find it helpful to share what you have learned with a wise friend or spiritual director who can encourage you and hold you accountable.

Pray

Lord Jesus, first, I thank you for this memorable passage. I might not remember all that you taught, but I will never forget the picture of the log-eyed person offering to help the splinter-eyed person. Thank you for being such a compelling teacher!

Lord, I know that you have helped me in the past to remove the logs from my eyes. I’ve accumulated quite a pile of removed logs! But I’m quite sure there is more removal yet to come. In fact, I can think of one pesky log right now. So I confess this to you, asking you to work with me on removing this log. Thank you for the persistent grace and patience with which you deal with me. Amen.


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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Ethics of Conflict (Luke 6:27-36; 17:3-4)


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