29th May 2012

If You Would Change The World

“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, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:3-5 (NIV)

Those verses conjure up what, at first, seems a ridiculous picture. How can anyone have a plank in their eye? But what Jesus was doing here was exaggerate to illustrate.

The passage begins in verse 1 with the statement “Do not judge”. Here is the key point in understanding the example. Christ knew human nature and our tendency to judge, often without having all the facts!

He clearly shows how our human nature can judge and condemn others for the most minor faults, while we can live quite happily with our own major shortcomings. So often, when we are having problems in our relationships with others, the root cause is because we want them to change or accept our point of view as being right. We become frustrated with the person for not changing the way we want them to, or not accepting that we are right and they are wrong! The result is our relationship goes downhill. As a result, marriages can be in a state of unhappy tension, or even end in divorce. Friendships can be fractured beyond repair. Working relationships can become hostile, with both the people and the business suffering. Work then becomes an unhappy place to be and that spills over into other areas of your life. The longer it goes on the bigger the plank grows in our own eye, so we can’t see the root of the problem. At the same time the speck in the other person’s eye grows in our mind till it too is an enormous plank!

Judging others by our standards, our beliefs and our values, is simply our human nature at work! We can’t help it! But it doesn’t mean we are always right and others are always wrong.

From personal experience I know the only way to change a difficult relationship with another person is not to try and change them. It is to look at our own attitude and approach. To change our attitude to them, to stop judging them consciously or unconsciously. To change ourselves!

When you do that, an amazing thing happens. Over time, sometimes a long time, the other person’s attitude to us will change and we can rebuild the relationship whether in a marriage, a friendship or at work. It doesn’t mean the relationship will become perfect but hopefully the friction will go out of it.

Taking the plank out of our own eye is a difficult thing to do. It takes humility and a willingness to look closely at ourselves in a way which may be uncomfortable. For a Christian it involves prayer and possibly fasting for a day. It takes honesty to examine our attitude and approach. But when we do, we find a joy and peace which more than compensates for the discomfort.

A judgemental attitude harms us and the people around us. It can quickly lead to pride, arrogance and looking down on other people. Christ knew that and used this example to grab our attention and make us think.  So if you would change the world—begin first with yourself!

Father, it is so easy to judge others and remain blind to our own faults. Help us to humbly seek your guidance in our relationships with other people and to judge ourselves with wisdom and balance.

Study by Keith Hartrick

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