October 6, 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.
There are times when out of love for others, we should help them deal with the negative “stuff” in their lives, things like sin, misunderstandings, unhealthy habits, and the like. But Jesus is clear that this sort of care for others must come after we’ve dealt with our own “stuff.” This enables us to approach others with humility, compassion, and grace.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I focused on the “log removal” aspect of Luke 6:41-42. Jesus urges us to take the log out of our own eye before we offer to remove the splinter from the eye of our neighbor. To put it more prosaically, deal with your own major stuff before you offer to help someone else with their relatively minor stuff.
It is striking to me that Jesus doesn’t criticize the desire to help others with their splinters. He doesn’t say, “Don’t bother with the splinters of others, with their faults, miscues, and peccadillos. Just deal with your own issues.” Rather, Jesus says that once you have removed the log from our own eye, then you will be able to “see clearly” in order to “take the splinter out of your neighbor’s eye” (Luke 6:42).
This notion of splinter removal is unpopular among many Christians today for several reasons. We may have bought into the American cultural narrative of privacy: “What I do in my life is my own business, thank you very much. Back off!” Or we may have experienced judgmental and self-righteous Christians whose main purpose in life seems to be splinter removal, focused on others. If you’ve lived with a bunch of log-eyed, splinter-obsessed Christians, you may understandably be reticent to pay attention to the splinters of others or to assist them with removal.
I get this reticence and feel it myself sometimes. I don’t like confrontation. I don’t like making people feel bad about themselves. I don’t like conflict or awkwardness. So my natural inclination is to avoid splinter removal altogether when it comes to anyone but me. But, in spite of my inbred hesitations, I do want to make a case for splinter removal.
My case is based on real-life experience. When I lived in Texas, I was responsible for mowing two acres of relatively wild grass. I actually loved sitting on my riding mower as I trimmed all sorts of grass, weeds, dead wildflowers, and the like. I always wore a safety helmet with a fine mesh screen in front of my eyes, in addition to my glasses. But, once in a while, a splinter of a twig somehow made its way into one of my eyes. This was quite painful, of course. Usually, I could wash it out with sterile water. Twice in seven years, however, I could not get the splinter out of my eye, so I made an emergency run to the eye doctor. Using his specialized equipment, Dr. Kim was able to remove the splinter. I felt instantly relieved, not to mention very grateful for Dr. Kim’s squeezing me into his schedule.
Our sins can be rather like splinters, even when they’re quite small. They can be irritating and distracting. If left untended, they can do significant damage. And they may be quite hard to remove by ourselves. If we’re feeling pain related to our sins, we may welcome someone who can help us deal with them.
Yet sometimes we’re so used to our sinful splinters that we don’t feel them. They are in fact hurting us but we don’t know it. They may be more obviously irritating and distracting to others. That’s one reason why we need people in our lives who love us enough to help us with the splinter removal process. If they are people who have been aware of their own logs, if they approach us with grace and compassion, then we would do well to pay attention to their concern for us. Similarly, once we have dealt with our own logs, then we ought to care about others enough to help them with their splinter removal.
Let me close by saying that our logs and splinters are often matters of sin, big and small. But they might be other things as well: unhealthy habits, misguided mental models, ways of speaking that unintentionally hurt others, etc. I think, for example, of something I said some time ago that was hurtful to a person of color. I had no ill will in my heart, but as a white man, I lacked awareness of how my words would feel to someone whose life experience was quite different from mine. A short time after this incident, a friend who had been present pointed out to me the splinter in my eye. She did this with kindness and with an acknowledgment of her own logs. Honestly, at the time I felt mortified by the identification of my splinter. I wanted to be defensive because of my shame. But, in retrospect, I’m grateful for a friend who risked pointing my splinter out to me so that I might work to remove it, and so that I might go to the person I had hurt and apologize.
I believe that we who are part of Christ’s family are called into the splinter removal business. But, remember, this should only happen if we are, first of all, in the personal-log-removal business. Jesus makes it clear what comes first. Deal with your own log. Then you’re ready to deal with the splinters of others.
Have you ever experienced something like I described above, a time when you unintentionally did something that hurt someone else, and then somebody helped you to see the implications of your action? What happened? How did you respond?
Have you ever tried to help someone else deal with a splinter in their eye? If so, what happened? If not, why not?
Are you aware of a splinter in your eye that you’d like to deal with? Or even a log? To whom might you turn for help with this?
If you are aware of a splinter in your life that needs attention, talk honestly with the Lord about this. Consider who might be able to help you get this splinter out of your eye.
Gracious God, thank you for the people you put in our lives who can help us deal with our splinters. Of course, there are times we’d rather not get into this. We can be resistant and defensive. But we thank you for those who love us enough to be compassionate, persistent, and patient. Help us, Lord, to be open to getting help from others as we are formed by your Spirit.
And, in the right circumstances, help us also to love others enough to assist them with their splinters. May we do this only as we have dealt with our own logs. Help us to approach others with kindness and mercy, reaching out to them with genuine love.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for all the ways you help us grow to be more like you. 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 High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: A Log in Your Eye