Lesson 4: Get the Log Out of Your Eye
Topic: Topical Passage: Matthew 7:1-5
Lesson 4: Get the Log Out of Your Own Eye
A. In our first three lessons, we took more of a “zoomed-out” approach and talked about your approach to conflict. This week, we’ll start covering some specific steps you can take. Turn to Matthew 7:1-5.
C. Matthew 7:1-5 is a powerful and very convicting passage. It’s also somewhat of a controversial passage. The word “judge” can have at least three shades of meaning. It can mean “to judge” in a judicial sense, “to discern” as in making a distinction, or “to condemn” as in having a critical spirit. How do people misuse v. 1? They say, “You can’t judge me!” And by that, they mean, “You aren’t allowed to discern whether my actions are right or wrong.” What’s the problem with that? Jesus made those kinds of discernments all the time! They’re all over the Sermon on the Mount! In fact, in v. 6, He says not to cast your pearls before swine. That sounds like a discernment to me! Also, according to v. 5, Jesus wants you to remove the sawdust from your brother’s eye! He just wants you to take care of the log in your own eye first!
D. So Matthew 7:1 does not forbid judgment of any kind. What it does forbid is a censorious, critical spirit. God convicted me as I was preparing this lesson. Since I struggle with pride, I also struggle with this sin. In fact, I asked God earlier in the week, “Give me some kind of tool, some biblical motivation that will help me fight this sin in my life.” He answered that prayer by bringing me to this passage. What does God say to the critic in this passage? I’d like to break it down into three statements.
1. Don’t condemn others or God will condemn you.
a. Most commentators agree that the passives in vv. 1-2 refer to God’s judgment. When you’re harsh and critical toward others, you aren’t thinking clearly. You’re applying a double-standard. You would never hold yourself to that same standard! “I can’t stand the way that guy bounces his leg all the time. Ah! It’s annoying!” Oh, well then, I guess you don’t have any annoying habits. You’ve successfully rid yourself of every annoying habit. Congratulations! You never annoy anyone! “She’s a bad leader; that decision was stupid.” Got it. So you never make stupid decisions. You’ve managed to rid yourself of stupidity. That’s pretty impressive–you should write a book!
b. Jesus calls the critical man a hypocrite in v. 5. But I don’t think we should view this as calculated hypocrisy. The proud man actually believes that he’s justified. That’s the whole point of the log metaphor! You’ve got a log in your eye; you can’t see properly! Your self-image is totally distorted! That’s why you need someone like Jesus to call your bluff and say, “Just think about the way you’re treating that person. Would you really want God to treat you that way?”
c. But notice that this isn’t just hypothetical. That’s what makes this passage so scary. God promises to treat the proud person just like he has treated others (v. 2). Turn with me to Psalm 18:25-27. If you want God to be merciful to you, you better show mercy to others.
2. Your self-righteous, critical spirit is 100x worse than whatever it is the other guy did (v. 3). What does the speck stand for in this verse? (whatever it is the other guy did) What’s the log? (It’s your own self-righteous, critical spirit.) Do you think Jesus is making a point? He says, “Compared to whatever it is he did, your pride is like a log! It’s 100x worse! It’s 1,000x worse! I don’t know; how much bigger is a log than a speck of sawdust? Do you see how much God hates pride?
3. Until you deal with your pride, you are in no position to help your brother.
a. “I’m gonna give him a piece of my mind. Somebody needs to say something.” Jesus says, “Maybe so, but it ‘aint you! Or at least, it’s not you right now, until you get your own heart right.”
b. What happens when you try to help someone else when you’ve got a log in your eye? You end up poking him in the eye! You only make the problem worse. That’s why Jesus says, “Get the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly to get the speck out of your brother’s eye.” The speck ought to be addressed, but until you get the log out of your own eye, you are totally disqualified from helping in that way.
E. So if you’re looking for steps in dealing with conflict, here’s step #1: Get rid of your ugly, unloving, critical spirit. Confess it to God and plead for His mercy. Then, if the other person is aware of your attitude, confess it to him, too.
TRANSITION: I hope that step doesn’t apply to you. But if it does, your problem might be 90% solved just by taking that step. That’s possible because getting the log out of your own eye unlocks several abilities that in many instances, can totally disarm conflict very quickly.
A. Removing the log unlocks the ability to define the issues.
1. One of the difficult things about conflict is that often multiple issues become entangled–so much so that sometimes, it seems almost impossible to unravel them!
2. I'd like to read to you an illustration from the book. Sande says, "For example, when I come home from a long trip, I am looking forward to my wife's wonderful cooking. She, on the other hand, is often weary of cooking and would prefer to eat out. The material issue is fairly simple, isn't it?–Should we eat at home or go out tonight? But this simple issue has at times escalated into conflict. If Corlette presses me to go out, I have sometimes grumbled that she doesn't care about how sick I am of restaurant food. And she has reacted with a comment about my insensitivity to how hard she has worked in my absence. I counter with a comment about watching our budget, and she raises a question about my new computer. Pretty soon issues of eating out, selfishness, lack of sensitivity, domestic responsibilities, and my new computer are all tangled together in a surprising mess."* Has that kind of thing ever happened to you? You thought you were talking about one issue, and then all of a sudden, you were talking about five issues! And those issues were on totally different levels–some were big issues and some were small issues! But in the heat of the moment, they all seemed big! If you’ve got a bad attitude, it’s going to be very difficult for you to separate between big issues and small issues. And what you’ll end up doing is chasing squirrels. You’ll fight for an hour about whether you really needed a new computer, when that had nothing to do with the problem! And you’ll have difficulty seeing how the issues relate to one another.
3. However, once you get the log out of your eye so that you can see more clearly, you should be able to sort through the issues with much greater ease. Sande says, "First, you must stop dragging in more issues, and then you must sort through the issues that have already surfaced. Try to agree on the primary material issue or issues. (Should we eat out or stay home tonight?) Then identify the primary personal issues (Corlette is tired of cooking. Ken is sick of restaurants. Corlette feels taken for granted. Ken thinks Corlette is being selfish.) Then list the secondary issues. (Is Corlette neglecting our budget? Did Ken really need the new computer? Should Ken learn how to cook?)"* You see how when you put it that way, some of the issues that seemed so big at first almost sound ridiculous? Once you get all of the issues sorted, you’ll be able to deal with them much more effectively.
4. One way that I’ve found effective when it comes to sorting issues is journaling. I just make a list of all my burdens and frustrations. Sometimes, if I’m having an especially difficult time sorting my feelings, I answer a list of questions: “What cares do I need to cast?” “What sins do I need to confess?” “What commands do I need to obey?” “What promises do I need to claim?” Sometimes I’m surprised by what comes out of that exercise. I thought I was feeling down because I didn’t get much done that day, but it turns out I was actually discouraged about some people who aren’t walking with God. Or maybe I was concerned that there was relational tension between Elise and me when in reality, we just needed a better process for putting events on the calendar.
5. For Elise, I don’t think journaling is as helpful. But it seems to be really helpful for her when we talk through things. There have been times when a really good conversation solved multiple issues that had popped up at various times. But the point is that getting the log out of your own eye makes all of that possible.
A. Removing the log unlocks the ability to overlook minor offenses.
1. When you’re proud and unloving, everything seems like a big deal. But once you get the log out your eye, you’ll find it much easier to let some things go. This response is highly commended in the Bible. Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.” Proverbs 17:9 says, “He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends.” Proverbs 19:11 says, “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression.” And 1 Peter 4:8 says, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’”
2. By the way, does this response square with the character of God? Does God ever overlook sins? He doesn’t overlook sins in a judicial sense. Every sin must be accounted for, or else His justice is denied. That’s why Jesus had to die on the cross. And yet when it comes to relational forgiveness, I would argue that God often deals with us this way. David said, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults.” You see, David understood that if his right relationship with God was dependent on his own ability to identify and confess every one of his sins, he’d be in trouble! Because that’s impossible! When it comes to the heart level, we sin more times than we can keep track of! Now, when we’re aware of a particular sin, we ought to confess that. But when it comes to sins of which we’re not aware, we serve a God who is merciful.
3. A question that often comes up in regards to overlooking offenses is, “When should I overlook an offense and when should I go to the person?” So here are some guidelines on that.
a. Overlook as much as possible. Based on the verses I just read and the fact that this is the simplest, cleanest way to handle conflict, I would say if you can overlook an offense, do it. But there are some times in which overlooking is not an option.
b. Don’t overlook if the conflict has created a wall between you and the offender. Sometimes someone will be in a grumpy mood and say something sideways to you, but then the next day, it will be like it never happened. If that is the case and it doesn’t bother you, you should probably just to let it go. However, at other times, someone will blow up at you and then afterwards either because he’s embarrassed or because he’s still mad at you, your relationship will not be the same. There are two things you can do in that situation: avoid him because it’s awkward or go and have a conversation. The best option in that case is obviously to go and have the conversation.
c. Don’t overlook if the offense is hurting others. So for instance, we cannot overlook child abuse. That is not kind; it’s incredibly unkind. So you need to ask yourself, “Is this person’s sin putting other people in physical or spiritual danger?” If so, then it must be addressed.
d. Don’t overlook if the offense is hurting the offender.
1) The world has adopted and attitude of “to each his own.” “If you want to ruin your own life, go ahead; just don’t ruin mine while in the process.” I hope you recognize that attitude is incredibly selfish. The Bible consistently calls us to look out for each other. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness….” Proverbs 27:5-6 says, “Open rebuke is better Than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” James 5:19-20 says, “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
2) So when someone wrongs you, you need to ask yourself, “Is the person who sinned against me putting himself in physical or spiritual danger?” Maybe he’s involved in drugs. Maybe he’s having an affair. Maybe it’s not anything that serious, but there is an obvious pattern of disobedience that ought to be addressed. In situations like that, it might be tempting to overlook the sin because that’s easier for you! But you must not neglect your responsibility to your brother. Your duty in that instance is to lovingly confront him.
e. Don’t overlook if the offense is damaging God’s reputation. Sometimes a sin or offense will be of a public nature, and it will bring disgrace on the name of Christ. In that case, overlooking is not your prerogative.
f. Don’t overlook if you’re becoming bitter. Sometimes a person’s sin will affect you in such a way that you find it very difficult to just forgive and move on. Maybe you tried to overlook the offense, but you just can’t seem to get it out your mind. Maybe you’ve already overlooked so many similar sins in the past that this one feels like the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.” In cases like that, I would definitely encourage you to make sure first of all that the log is out of your own eye. And I would also encourage you to pray specifically that God would help you to be less sensitive and to forgive. But if you’ve done those things and you’re still struggling to forgive, you probably need to go and talk to the other person in order to protect your own heart against bitterness.
C. Removing the log unlocks the ability to view others in a positive light.
1. Like we said, when you’ve got a log in your eye, you tend to have a skewed view of reality. Also, you tend to focus on the negative. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” All of us our sinners, so if we looked hard enough, we could all find failures in each other’s lives. But instead of focusing on somebody else’s shortcomings, God wants you to meditate on the good things He is doing in their lives.
2. How does this work out in everyday life? Consider this illustration from the book. "One day, Corlette said something that really hurt me. I don't remember what she said, but I remember going out into the backyard a few minutes later to rake leaves. The more I dwelt on her words, the more deeply I slid into self-pity and resentment. I was steadily building up steam to go back into the house and let her know how wrong she was. But then God brought Philippians 4:8 to my mind. Ha! I thought. There's nothing noble, right, or lovely about the way she's treating me! But the Holy Spirit wouldn't give up. The verse would not go away; it kept echoing in my mind. Finally, to get God off my back, I grudgingly conceded that Corlette is a good cook. This small concession opened the door to a stream of thoughts about my wife's good qualities. I recalled that she keeps a beautiful home and practices wonderful hospitality. She has always been kind toward my family, and she never missed an opportunity to share the gospel with my father (who eventually put his trust in Christ just two hours before he died). I realized that Corlette has always been pure and faithful, and I remembered how much she supports me through difficult times in my work. Every chance she gets, she attends the seminars I teach and sits smiling and supportive through hours of the same material (always saying she has learned something new). She is a marvelous counselor and has helped hundreds of children. And she even took up backpacking because she knew I loved it! I realized that the list of her virtues could go on and on. Within minutes my attitude toward her was turned upside down. I saw her offensive comment for what it was–a momentary and insignificant flaw in an otherwise wonderful person. I dropped my rake and went inside, but not to unload a storm of resentment and criticism. To her surprise, I walked in, gave her a big hug, and told her how glad I was to be married to her. The conversation that followed led quickly to a warm reconciliation."* Wives, some of you would be well-served to think about one thing you’re thankful for your husband for every day. You would probably be surprised how much that simple exercise would improve your attitude. The same thing goes for husbands and for all of us.
D. Removing the log unlocks the ability to lay down your rights.
1. Many people will object to God’s teaching about conflict resolution by insisting on their “rights.” That attitude is wrong for a couple of reasons.
2. Just because you have a legal right doesn’t mean you have a biblical one. Legally speaking, you can smoke marijuana, drink vodka, gamble, commit adultery, sue your pastor–you name it! You can do any other number of things that the Bible condemns! That doesn’t make it right.
3. God may ask you to lay down your rights. Can you think of anyone in the Bible who laid down a right? Listen to this paragraph. Sande goes on to say, “Rights are not something you deserve and possess for your own benefit. Rather, they are privileges given to you by God, and he wants you to use them for his glory and to benefit others….”
E. Removing the log unlocks the ability to be reasonable.
1. One of the things you ought to ask yourself before entering into a conflict is, "Is this really worth fighting about?” Sometimes, the answer will be, “Yes.” But many times, the answer will be, “No.” Proverbs 17:14 says, “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.” There’s a famous story about a little boy who saved Holland by sticking his finger in the dyke. The story goes that the boy noticed a small stream of water coming from the side of the dyke and knew that if it wasn’t stopped, the dyke would eventually burst and the town would be flooded. So he stood by the side of the dyke all night long with his finger in the hole until someone found him in the morning.
2. Proverbs 17:14 teaches that conflict is a lot like that hole in the dyke. It starts small, but it gets bigger and bigger and eventually causes all kinds of problems. Jesus said, “Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.” Conflict can be expensive! So settle out of court!
3. If you have a proud, self-righteous attitude, you’ll tend to the push the issue for the sake of “the principle of the thing.” But once you’ve gotten the log out of your own eye, you’ll gain the ability to evaluate the conflict honestly, consider the cost, and get out of there before you’ve paid your last penny.
So what about you? Do you have a log in your eye? There may be some of you who need to go home this afternoon and spend some time in prayer. Maybe you already can see that this is a problem in your life and you want to confess it right now or you already did while I was teaching. Whatever the case, get the log out of your eye. You don’t want God to treat you the same way you are treating others. And you’ll never reach a satisfying resolution until you take this step.
*Quotes and general outline taken from Ken Sande, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004). For more information, see Peacemaker® Ministries (https://pm.training).