From Smell of Sin
Meet Plank-Eye. He’s a fool.
He’s average height and is decently good-looking. Or at least he used to be. Its hard to tell these days; sin is getting in the way of his face.
Plank Eye certainly believes in sin. In fact, he’s very passionate about sin and getting rid of sin. Specifically other’s sins. To get an idea of this character, Jesus asked us to imagine someone with a log stuck in their eye (Matthew 7:3-5). That’s a kind of disgusting thing for Jesus to ask us to imagine. It’s pretty ludicrous, to be honest.
How does it fit in his eye exactly? Do his eyelid and whole eye socket stretch around the big log, or are they mutilated by the bloody log? Is the log sticking really far out of the eye? Two feet, seven feet? How am I supposed to image this person not just falling over from the weight of it all? And I wonder, is Plank Eye’s nose being bent from the weight of the log? Can he still blink? Is the rough bark cutting up the skin around his eye?
It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? And yet Jesus asks us to. In fact, he asks us to imagine something even worse.
If we can somehow get this cartoonishly grotesque Plank Eye pictured in our imagination, Jesus now asks us to imagine him trying to get a piece of dust out someone else’s eye.
I do not know about you, but I hate the thought of even a sane, surgically prepped doctor trying to get a speck out of my eye. It’s my eye. I have policies about my eyes. No one else touches them, for example. It’s nothing personal, it’s just a policy.
And yet Mr. Plank Eye somehow notices a friend’s eye has a speck in the corner of it. So he lumbers over–swinging eye-plank and all–to get the speck out!
Disaster awaits. Does the friend get his head knocked around by the log as the “doctor” leans in? Does blood from the log-filled, grotesquely stretched eye fall onto the face of the friend?
Too many questions. All too ridiculous! Much too grotesque.
And yet Jesus says this is how we are tempted to respond to sin. Instead of crying out to Jesus and working hard on our sin, we are tempted to completely ignore the sin in our own lives (quite a task!) and focus on the small sins of others around us.
That is foolish, Jesus says. Utterly foolish.
Let’s not do that. Let’s not pretend our eyes are fine. Let’s not bumble around with gross things hanging out of our faces. Let’s deal with our own sin.
Then in humility and gentleness, we will be in a much better place to help others with their own temptations and struggles.
Let’s not be so occupied with the sins of others that we can’t even see our own sin. Let’s not cry “How dare you, you sinners!” without first crying out for our own, real tangible sins.
Let’s not be the adulterous husband who is irate at the “all those homosexuals out there!”
Let’s not be the woman who enjoys flirting with her married neighbor but can’t stand “those whores down on Broadway!”
Let’s not be the racist college student who protests loudly against “those capitalist pigs who are destroying our planet!”
Let’s not be the young man who regularly enjoys lurid Internet sites, but cringes in disgust while driving by “those nasty adult bookstores.”
Let’s beware of praying similar to the prayer of the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable:
God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.Luke 18:11-12
When we sit down to list the sins that bug us, are they ever the sins we struggle so deeply with? Or are we quick to ignore the logs in our own eyes while focusing so intently and with such passion on the specks in the eyes of those around us?
Jesus never makes a hierarchy of sins. Sins of idolizing money are just as smelly as sexual sins. A “white lie” is just as insulting to our Father as cold-blooded murder. So the most important sins must always be our own. Our own.
Let the rich man whose idol is money sneer at the prostitute. Let the prostitute roll her eyes at that obvious slave of money.
And let them both be fools.
Let the adulterous patroness of the country club click her tongue at the pregnant teen who fills her water glass. Let the pregnant teen clear her throat at that mirror of a torrid soap opera.
And let them both be fools.
That is not our call; that is foolish. Let’s not be fools.