I am an avid contact wearer. Several years ago, I used to wear glasses until a friend of mine suggested that I switch to contacts. At first, I was reticent to make such a switch, for sticking my finger in each of my eyes twice daily to put in and remove my contacts sounded less than appealing, but once I got into the habit of it, I loved my contacts. No more blurred peripheral vision. No more foggy lenses when I walked outside on a humid day. I soon began wearing my contacts from first thing in the morning until late at night. That is, until one day.
It was right in the middle of a Vacation Bible School at my former church. My left eye, no matter how many times I flushed it and rinsed my contacts, was always sore and blurry. I finally decided to make a trip to the optometrist when, after lots of vision tests, a couple of puffs of air, and a dilated pupil, he informed me that my eye was infected and I would have to stop wearing my contacts immediately. I was not pleased. "How long will I have to wear glasses instead of contacts?" I demurred. "I don't know," came the reply. "Probably a few months until your eye gets better."
Those few months seemed to be nearly an eternity to me. Office visit after office visit. Vision test after vision test. And still, the eyesight in my left eye remained troublingly blurred.
In our reading for today from Matthew 7, Jesus speaks to a kind of stymied vision that is much more significant and dire than that which can be blurred by a simple eye infection: "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" (verses 3-5). Sadly, many people misinterpret Jesus' words here to be either a prohibition against any kind of condemnation of sin whatsoever, or a minimalistic perquisite against having anything too bad in your own life so that you can self-righteously sock it to your brother or sister in Christ without being embarrassed by your own shortcomings. Neither interpretation is correct or faithful.
The problem which Jesus addresses in these verses is simply this: We have a spiritual vision problem. There is a timber of transgression in every human eye. And with such obstructed vision, it is not that we should not try to remove a speck of sawdust from our brother's eye, it is that we cannot remove a speck of sawdust from our brother's eye because, with such a large lath in our own eye, we cannot even see our brother to help him in his sin! In other words, Jesus is not saying, as some would maintain, that we dare not judge our brother's speck because that might seem narrow-minded or accusatory. No! The very reason Jesus wants us to remove the plank from our own eye is so that we can help our brother with his speck. Jesus wants us to be able to help others repent of their sin! But, then again, we also must never turn Jesus' word into some shallow precondition meant simply to keep us from looking too hypocritical so that we can ruthlessly and mercilessly judge others. Instead, Jesus calls to us to really examine ourselves and remove our planks and to really help others with their specks of sin by calling them to repentance.
So, how's your eyesight? Although it certainly isn't 20/20, for no one is perfect, are you cognizant of your own sins and shortcomings, asking God to forgive and purify you so that you can be of service to others? Don't live with your spiritual eyesight stifled by sin. After all, your brother needs your clear vision so that you can help him. I hope you will.