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God’s Word for You

Luke 6:41-42 The speck in your brother’s eye

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, January 29, 2018

41 Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? 42 Or how can you tell your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck in your eye,’ when you do not see the beam in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck in your brother’s eye.

A karphos is a splinter or speck of wood that flakes off after a board has been sawn. It might be sawdust, or it might be a splinter or a speck—whatever tiny piece you’d like to imagine. But the dokos is more than a board. A board would be a sanis (σανίς), like the boards, planks and strakes left in the water after Paul’s shipwreck (Acts 27:44). But the word here isn’t sanis, it’s dokos. A dokos is a beam, an entire log or tree trunk, the sort of thing that is used as the main support of an entire building. “The beams of our house are cedars; our rafters are firs” (Song of Solomon 1:17).

Why does Jesus place these chunks of wood in the eyes? Why not somewhere else, like in the feet (with which we set out on a path) or the hands (with which we do so many of our acts)? He sets them in the eyes in the parable because the wrongs—the speck and the rafter—are not necessarily sins, but errors in the way we view the Bible. Think of them as theological problems. The speck is a misunderstanding, or a small spiritual error, overcome with a little bit of help or instruction. The beam, on the other hand, is an error so colossal that it gets in the way of everything else. Jesus’ illustration, impossible in life, is so over the top that we understand how serious a problem this is. A man with a tree trunk in his eye is a man who’s been killed. A man with a spiritual girder blocking his spiritual sight is a man who’s got everything wrong. He’s not the one you want flicking a grain of sawdust from your own theology.

This is an illustration here in Luke of the blind leading the blind. What teachers do we follow? If I want spiritual guidance, should I flip on my TV and watch whatever preacher happens to be on the religious channel? Are ratings or costumes or flashy special effects to become the gauge of who we watch and listen to? Or will it be the music? Or is it the time slot that makes all the difference?

In Jesus’ illustration, he shows in verse 41 that someone with a beam in the eye can’t even see the other man’s speck (or error). In verse 42, he shows how ridiculous it would be to ask the man with the beam to remove what he can’t possibly even see—or remove. So it is with everyone obsessed with teaching and preaching (for example) nothing but the End Times, without ever a thought for Christ on the cross. A church that seems to take everything it teaches from Revelation, Daniel, and Jesus’ parables about the Last Days and which avoids the cross is a church that’s avoiding the forgiveness of sins. Those parts of the Bible that warn us about the End are important, but not so much that they should blot out the cross (or the manger!). That kind of teacher is a man with a tree trunk stuck in his eye blundering around the pulpit, knocking over the communion ware, spilling the water from the font, and tearing pages from the Bible without knowing what he’s doing.

I doubt whether there is anyone in the world who has never doubted, questioned, or at least misunderstood some part of the Bible and of God’s message to us. Our sinful human nature is bound and determined to get in the way sometimes. And God declares: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8). Notice that in the text, Jesus places the beam in your own eye. We see how there could be dangers if somebody else has a beam, but Jesus wants me to be very careful that it isn’t me who has the beam in his eye.

We need to trust God and his holy word without doubting it. If something doesn’t add up, then there is a problem in me, not in God’s word. Luther explained the Third Commandment (“Remember the Sabbath day”) with these words: “We should fear and love God that we do not despise preaching and his Word, but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it.”

When we do this, we will be gently cured by God of all of the specks and splinters in our eyes, and we will be able to see clearly those with tree trunks in their eyes, and avoid them and the dangerous, crashing damage that they do.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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