What is The Meaning Behind The Speck in the Eye Metaphor?
I am referring to Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7 vs 3-5: “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while there is still 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.…”
First of all, who would think of such a metaphor? Only a carpenter! A person who has worked with wood knows that sometimes when you are sawing, you get sawdust in your eyes. I know this too well from cutting branches from trees. And it can be pretty painful and stop you from being able to see properly. Don’t forget that in those days there were no protective goggles. Hence the image he uses. Then by comparing the speck to a plank, Jesus is obviously exaggerating massively for effect.
On one level if you have a large amount of sawdust in your eye, you won’t be able to see well enough to help someone. So too if you have a lot of flaws you will not be able to correct your spouse. Your help will be flawed and subjective.
If you criticise your partner all the time, it may be a sign that you are not willing to look inside of yourself. You are not able to ask for your needs to be met. Nor are you able to express your feelings. And you are not facing your own issues that need to be dealt with. So Jesus recommends that you deal with your own issues first so that you can see better.
The Compassion Behind The Speck in The Eye Metaphor
Jesus knows that sawdust in the eye is painful, and he has compassion for the person who is being “helped” by someone with flawed “eyesight”. Their interference will only make things worse. And so many of us know that a well intentioned untrained person can do more damage than good. They have not sorted out their own issues so their vision is flawed. This happens frequently in church communities and in Facebook groups. So Jesus wants to protect people from this sort of help.
Thirdly, he calls the helpful critics “You hypocrites.” However, the minute they humbly look inside themselves to see their own flaws, he will open his arms to them in mercy and compassion. He also knows that in their repentance they will not be so critical of others. Once we admit our own imperfections, we are much more understanding of the pain of others and the reasons for their imperfections.