It is very hard to see an elephant in the room when you have a log in your eye. It’s hard to see anything with a LOG in your eye. I have a log in my eye. It’s hard to see anything but the log with a log in your eye. Even the log in your eye is hard to see when it’s IN YOUR EYE. I have a log in my eye, and it is hard to see. It’s hard to remove.
Neo wanted to see the matrix. It was hard to see the matrix. The matrix was overpowering his eye; I mean it was right up in his face! But he took a red pill that changed everything, and suddenly (not too unlike the man and the woman in Genesis 3:7) his eyes were opened and he could see what he was seeing but which he couldn’t see before that because it was all he could see and how that cleared it all up for him.
Is it that simple?
Is that simple??
Is that even a fair analysis???
Well, Neo and The Matrix are a fiction movie packed with eye-candy action and special effects. That’s not real, even though it calls reality in for review. I am thinking that as a Christian, I need to hear from Jesus.
Jesus talks about the log in my eye. I got that from him. He talks about that log, specifically, as part of his sermon about judging others. It is a sermon we find in the Sermon on the Mount, which in Matthew’s Gospel functions similarly (though with obvious significant differences) to Luke’s Jubilee sermon in chapter 4 of his Gospel. Jesus is kicking off his bid to be King of the Jews, and these are his opening remarks which will set the agenda for his Kingdom Cause.
“Judge not, lest you be judged,” Jesus says, “by the measure you use, it will be used for you.” He continues, “Why do you see a speck in your brother’s eye, yet do nothing about the log in your eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take that speck out of your eye,’ when you have a log in your own eye?”
Turns out, I am not seeing clearly. I have a log in my eye.
Jesus says so, and I trust him; I believe him. He is a better authority than Neo, even if – IF – if they happen to agree at some interesting point(s).
Actually, the notion that I am not seeing clearly is well established, even if hard to see. I have always known it – at least I kinda knew it.
When I came in to this world, this matrix, I was naked and vulnerable, completely and utterly dependent on my mom and dad. I especially relied on my mom, and I sucked on her breast, looked into her eyes, her smile, and felt her warmth and love, and I did all of that from before I could remember. In fact, quite honestly, I am trusting now that she really did those things with/for me then. I was too young, too ill equipped (immature) to remember any of that.
Point being: I have no objective memory of how I got here. In fact, I have no objective memory of the day my eyes were first opened.
I recall quite a lot of first experiences which were eye-opening after a fashion, but even those experiences built on previous eye-opening experiences which I experienced before those, and which I cannot recall in anything like an objective way.
I really could just be a “brain in a vat.”
I cannot prove otherwise. That really is kind of a showstopper. There are some aspects of reality I just have to take for granted. Some are mythical in nature – mythical, not as in lies (necessarily), but as in stories which give non-objective, and not-necessarily complete explanation boundaries (usually of origins, but also of endings) behind which I cannot see. These myths give me the bits I must take for granted so that I can move forward in the things that I do see. Some of them I find in family, friends, school, and some in church and the Bible. To believe in any of them, and thus to order my world accordingly, requires that I trust in them.
We are, by nature (by design, I say) world-ordering creatures. This is a fairly plainly observable fact about humans. We are always building, setting boundaries, exploring, mapping, looking, arranging, setting, stacking, standing, laying, storing, destroying, tilling, planting, harvesting, planning, saving, spending, talking, going, staying, cutting, sewing, killing, studying, and expanding in our effort(s) to order our world.
I built my house. I picked a location close to the… _________ (fill in the blank) and put a driveway leading to the garage on this side, the front door on the front, the back door on the back, the large window facing the beautiful view, the bathroom adjacent to the water heater and on the opposite wall from the kitchen sink to centralize the plumbing. I built it with archways for the aesthetic appeal, I planted trees here, here, and there for the shade value and for the beauty value.
I shop at a supermarket around the corner that was planned and zoned for the commercial district just adjacent to the residential district, well away from the industrial park. The commercial district provides a buffer between the freeway and the residential district.
I drive a truck so I can haul things and pull things. My second car is a sedan so that when I travel or otherwise want to carry people in comfort, I can do that.
I have insurance on my life, my home, and my cars. I have a 401k, an IRA, and my job provides me with health insurance with dental, but I have a second savings account for my eye doctor visits. I also have a savings account in which I maintain $1000 to cover the deductibles which I keep high so that I can pay lower premiums month to month. I have another savings account for vacation plans. I have yet another for long-term savings and emergency funds.
I use birth control so I can plan on having 2.6 kids. When I built my house, I added 2.6 bedrooms to it in addition to the “master bedroom.” My house has 2.5 baths to cover these needs.
I have a weight bench and a treadmill so I can keep myself physically fit. I use an app to plan my diet and meals each week. I do these things to stay healthy.
I have said enough now to show how I order my world. Yet I have not said anything about my education, saving for my kids’ educations, my career plans and goals. I have not said anything yet about my worship, my church, my tithes, my faith, my vaccinations, my gun cabinet with a safety lock on it, my liquor cabinet with a lock on it, the hiding place where I keep the keys for these things so the kids cannot get into them (in a secret box at the back of my closet right beneath my porn mags where I know they are safe from my kids!).
I have not mentioned the taxes I pay, the politics I vote for and/or promote, or the penguin theme my wife and I decorate our salt-n-pepper shakers and curtains with. I have not mentioned that I have a light switch next to each door to each room, an electrical outlet on each wall, central air conditioning and heating, or anything about my home security system. But I have now thoroughly demonstrated that I am a world orderer, and so are you.
It is easy to get just a little drifty at this point in all my world order and think I have it all mapped out, figured out, arranged, and even conquered. Well, maybe there are a few bits that need a bit more adjustment, but in the broad strokes, it’s all very close to complete. Just one or two adjustments shy of utopia. I mean, I do have to finish paying off that credit card at the high interest, I need to talk to the OTHER bank about their better rates on the CD’s, and I need to run a vacuum cleaner over the carpet in my den, but otherwise, seriously, it’s getting really close to perfect! Well, okay, I do need a little more money, really, just a little more, and then I am pretty much there.
It’s hard, in these circumstances, to admit that I see as in a mirror dimly! It is hard to admit that I have a log in my eye! I tell myself that I am not greedy, I am just ordering my world responsibly!
But when I see a bum on the street corner turning to the drink or opioids rather than getting a bath, a job, a savings account, and a home, then I think – oh yeah… he has a speck in his eye! He needs to learn the value of a dollar! Then he will be okay.
When I see black people marching in the streets protesting, chanting, shouting and carrying on after yet another black man dies needlessly at the hands (or knee) of a white police officer, all holding their “black lives matter” placards and all, I think to myself – oh here we go again! We are so close to UTOPIA here, but these clowns just get riled up by liberals and think they aren’t getting their free ride free enough!
Now, I am judging.
Judging is part of how we order our world. One aspect of many, but an important one all the same.
But now I am judging, and not only am I judging, but I just pulled a very clever trick on you and made it appear I was talking about me all this time, but then sucked you and your politics and all that into the orb of my judgement.
Ain’t that clever? Ain’t that cute?? Aren’t I just really smart???
Actually, thanx for saying that, but no. I am not that smart. Smart? Yes, but not THAT smart.
No. If you’re still with me, hang on a moment. I didn’t post this to talk about YOU per se. I posted about the log in MY eye. Jesus makes a statement there in Matthew 7 that pretty plainly tells me that I have a log in my eye! I trust him more than my own vision. His remark did not say “if” or “when” as though to suggest the log might not be there or that it might only be temporary – as in a come-n-go type eye log. No. He says I have a log in my eye.
NOW… He didn’t single me out alone for this. You got it too. So if you feel the heat in this, then take it up with him. But even so, I am not writing this post to explore the log in your eye or to help you get the speck out of your eye, but to deal with the log in my eye. So, that clever bit there is not actually my point, even if you find it applies to you at whatever level (and there are deeper levels at which you might get that point than just the mere surface level).
Definitions and redefining BUT not running from conviction
In order to do a thorough examination of the log in my eye as presented by Jesus in Matthew 7, I may need to redefine a few terms or re-contextualize them at least. What counts as “judging” or not and what counts as “seeing”? What counts as a speck or a log?
The thing really coming home to roost for ME personally here, as I write this stuff, is that Jesus is talking about judging! He first off commands us not to judge!
Sit with that a minute.
If you are protesting – especially burning and threatening your city – for the corruption you find in it, you are judging. If you watch that protest – and the accompanying mayhem – and claim it is not right, you are judging.
I bet I just captured everyone with any awareness of the recent events (and some old ones like them) in the orb of this passage, and I just pointed out that Jesus says NOT to judge!
It sounds so simple if I just leave it without comment, but the moment I plop down this observation about a recent event that everyone AND their a-hole has an opinion about along side Jesus’s command, it suddenly becomes clear that we can’t help but judge!
We are world-orderers by nature (by design, I say), and judging is part of ordering our world.
Even if we employ a been-to-law school, duly-elected, qualified public official to judge matters for us in a sanctioned court of law, we will look at his/her judgment of the matters they decide, and then WE will decide if we agree or not.
Is there something in the Greek here that specifies a different kind of judging? Does “judging” here mean “condemning” specifically, as opposed to aquitting, which also is a judgment? Does Jesus mean, No nitpicking? No armchair or unnecessary criticisms?
On the other hand, Jesus puts this judging in the context of vision and specks or logs inhibiting our clarity. Surely we cannot, in fairness to the biblical context just turn this discussion away from matters of judging, but perhaps the idea that our vision is obscured might stand to be enhanced as we look at passages like Genesis 3 where the man and the woman ate the forbidden fruit and their eyes were opened, or like the passage alluded to above where St. Paul says we see like in a mirror dimly. There seems to be an irony we are meant to wrestle with in the statement that by the measure we use, judgment will be measured to us. This has me thinking of Haman impaled on his own gallows in the book of Esther. He certainly aimed to put the Jews under the jugdment that he himself suffered. The justice was poetic!
Quite frankly, there is more to this redefinition business than a single post such as mine can account for. Such questions, I think, are important, but most of us are not qualified to answer them, and there is a very real risk that in chasing after the answers, I will find a way to excuse myself for judging others. There are hairs to split down that path.
I in no way aim to let myself off the hook with conviction here either by asking such questions for by avoiding them, but this post is getting pretty long already, and I am sure I will not satisfy all by chasing them further, but I do want to acknowledge them. I want to acknowledge these questions and questions like them, to validate them as important on the one hand, but to challenge us not to just run from conviction by asking them either.
We didn’t finish the passage yet.
But Jesus calls me a hypocrite too though. Just another sentence below where we left off, he says, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your eye and THEN you can see how to help your brother with that speck in his eye.”
Hmmm… I was still trying to get a handle on the log in my eye. Without the handle, how can I take it out of my eye?
Jesus doesn’t explain it at that level for me. But he did just call me a hypocrite. I am a faker, a play actor, a stage actor, a pretender, a couterfeit, but NOT THE REAL THING. He does not tell me to avoid helping my brother with his speck, but on the contrary to do exactly that. However, he insists I deal with the log in my eye first.
Interesting. This was the complaint he had for me at first. I try to take the speck out of my brother’s eye while I have a log in my own. This was how he fleshed out the statement: Judge not, lest you be judged. This is how he fleshed out the poetic justice where the measure I use in judging will be used against me – sort of a spiritual Miranda warning.
It’s like he is saying, Don’t judge; you can’t see clearly enough for that. He starts with DONT JUDGE, and that is rather final, but it almost looks like the judgment I am prohibited from doing is the seeing of the speck in my brothers eye, which in turn is ironic considering the log in my eye, which is doubly ironic since I see anything at all with a log in my eye! But now after calling me a hypocritical phony, Jesus is telling me to help my brother with the speck in his eye, alright, but to get the log out of mine first. There is a fine distinction there between judging and not – or so it seems.
Look this passage up in Matthew 7:3 and 5 and compare/contrast the two verses. They say almost the same thing but with almost opposite meanings. Verse 3 is asking a question; 5 making a statement. Verse 3, despite being a question, fleshes out the prohibition of verse 1, but verse 5 is my command. I am told to do the very thing in verse 5 that I am prohibited from doing in verse 3 – ALMOST.
What are the very important differences here?
Well, in verse 3 I was SEEING the speck in my brother’s eye, while I had a log in my eye. In verse 5, I am helping my brother with the speck in his eye, AFTER I remove the log from my eye. The one is judging, the other is not, and in between, I was being a hypocrite. A phony, an imposter.
I can’t help but think again about the greed in my life, masquerading as fiscal responsibility – an important aspect of ordering the world – and seeing the bum on the street who I am now going to “help” using my “effective” methods. Basically, I am judging him, and not only judging, but any “help” I am giving him with that greed/log in my eye will only make him greedy too (assuming I am actually successful) or will increase his inferiority if I am not successful.
But I am not talking about YOU in this post, I am talking about me (maybe us, but me for sure). I have a log in MY eye. What is that log and how do I get rid of it?
Well, I feel sure this will be a stretch for most anyone reading this far, but that “hypocrite” idea is trying world order and judgement to Genesis 1, 2, and 3 for me. In Matthew 7, Jesus is launching his mission with the Sermon on the Mount message of which this bit of the sermon is a part. Jesus, the Last Adam (I Cor. 15:45), is the One truly human person there on the scene. He is the target at which all other humans may or may not aim, but which they all fall short. He is the real thing. The rest of us are pretenders, fakers, counterfeits.
A funny thing about phony people, they are constantly trying to rearrange the world in a way to justify themselves. Not content to be the image of God, these poor creatures (among which I am one) try to be God, and God is the Judge, not the humans.
We humans have so much God-likeness going for us, even in our sin. How much more without sin? But we are not Judge and never were. We were not intended to be Judge.
It gets hard to iron out the wrinkles here, but we are made to bear God’s image. We are created in love to love and to be loved. God is love.
Jesus, the real thing, the true image bearer, comes and preaches this sermon at the opening end of the saga, but at the climactic part, he is taking the worst judgment the would-be humans can pass on him. All through the parts in between, Jesus is healing the sick, resoring the lost, raising up the humble, and loving the unlovable. All the people others judge, Jesus is showing kindness to instead. He is helping them with the speck in their eye, among other things like feeding them, healing them, partying with them.
In the broad strokes, Jesus is coming along side the lowly, the needy, broken, and entrusting himself to God in doing it. Rather than setting up a throne or a judgment seat from which to hand down rulings, Jesus loves those being crushed by those who do such things.
I find Matthew 12 sitting there in the wings about this point waiting a chance to step on the stage. There we see Jesus getting into all manner of dangerous controversy with Scribes and Pharisees, some early skirmishes with opposition midway through his ministry.
I have a log in MY eye.
I just take a minute and imagine myself in ministry trying to love the poor and needy, the broken and down trodden, and finding all manner of conflict with “religious leaders” as I go about it. I see myself getting upset, haggard, beat down. I see myself saddened, frustrated, and angry about the treatment I get at the hands of people who not only should know better, but who are tasked with doing better, and who, if they don’t, there is no plan B to fill in the gap! I see myself more and more alienated as I try to manage my words and acts so as to be righteous and certainly not to condemn people, but to call them to repentance (to help them get the speck out of their eye).
Do I dare to compare myself to Jesus?
Aboslutely! Who else should I aim to imitate?
But I in no way think I have mastered myself as he did.
But it’s right about here that I despair.
What does Jesus do?
Jesus withdrew, and people followed him, and he healed them, and then he told them not to talk about him (the first two rules of Fight Club!). And he did this to fulfill what Isaiah had said about the Servant in his book, chapter 42.
“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
Did you catch that part about being the Chosen One, about how with God’s Spirit he will proclaim JUSTICE?
Proclaiming justice without judging, but by being wrongly judged, he does it. And he proclaims this justice to the Gentiles without a quarrel or without crying. People do not hear him in the streets, but he doesn’t bust anyone’s chops when their are bruised or smoldering until he brings justice to victory.
That is a LOT of DEEP faith right there. And Jesus draws on it from the Bible he read, the book of Isaiah specifically.
I got a log in my eye.
No doubt there are things that means and entails which I so far have not dealt with and maybe as of yet don’t understand, but I sure see Jesus saving rather than judging – especially as per his own initiative (John 12:47-50).
Jesus takes the judgment of others and bears it on their behalf, and in so doing, he is crowned King of the Jews and bears the image of God supremely.
You can’t do that as a Republican. You can’t do that as a Democrat. You can’t do that AS A PARTICIPANT in American politics at all.
I have this log in my eye. I keep proclaiming justice by pointing out the speck in my fellow conservatives’ eyes. I keep pointing out the speck in my fellow liberals’ eyes. I keep SEEING those specks there as if somehow I have a God’s eye view of things. And strangely, it seems as if I do, and it seems as if I have a moral and ethical responsibility to point that stuff out. And try and try as I may to point it out, no one, and I mean NO ONE has come close to persuading me that I am mistaken in my view, that there are specks in those eyes, and HERE THEY ARE. Just look!
But I am a hypocrite.
Jesus is the real thing.
And if I want to be like him, and thus remove the log from my eye so that I can be like him, then I must do like him and NOT JUDGE. Then I must do like he says and HELP my brother get that speck, which I plainly saw before, out of his eye. Not by LOOKING at it and pointing it out, but by taking the judgment in his place after removing the log from my eye.
One more bit to the passage
The last part of that sermonette on judging others is a bit of an archaic command. Jesus says, “Do not give dogs what is holy; do not throw pearls before pigs, lest they trample these things under foot, then turn and attack you.”
No doubt in Jesus’s context, up on the mountain preaching that day, the dogs and the pigs were the Gentiles, the pagan occupiers of God’s Promised Land who had charge over God’s people. Jesus, ON THAT DAY, gave this sermon to the people of God FIRST, and only after the time had come was it made available to all.
Today the holy things and pearls are available to all. That time has now come. Thus in a direct sense, this statement no longer applies to us like it did the first hearers. But perhaps there is still wisdom in it for us. It’s meaning and application for our context up for interpretation with a longer leash.
With that liberty at hand, I suggest that by posting about MY log in MY eye, I aim to attract the interest of readers with soft hearts convicted. No doubt hard hearts will trample this post and may well turn to attack me.