Question: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?” Matthew 7:3-4.
Answer: The question of this article is one Jesus Himself asked. Jesus asked a number of very pertinent and thought-provoking questions to which He did not directly give the answers. This is one of them. He put forth this very straightforward question to faultfinding, nit-picking, judging, criticizing people and did not give the answer to it. But there are some answers to it and Jesus left us to find them. Surely every earnest, honest, sincere person who is endeavoring to serve and honor Christ will search out the answers and seek to avoid the causes they discover.
The very setting of this text and the principal objects in the text will be sufficient to convince any of us that Jesus was not commending this kind of behavior, but rather condemning it and warning us against it. One object in the text is a man with a mote in his eye; the other object is a man with a beam in his eye. Now, to be fair we will have to acknowledge that there is an extraneous, foreign substance in the eyes of both men; something in their lives that needs to be corrected. But a man with a beam in his eye (a log or big timber; a glaring fault) is not the man to try to extract the mote out of his brother’s eye.
If this little story were reversed, it would make better sense; if the man with the mote in his eye were trying to help the brother get the beam out of his eye, he could probably see sufficiently well to get hold of the beam and extract it. But Jesus did not set it up that way; He did not intend to. In setting it up this way, He was trying to make faultfinding, mote hunting, nit-picking, and criticizing appear just as ridiculous as possible and something to be laughed out of court at the very outset. In verse 5, He declared the man with the beam a hypocrite. He instructed him to get the beam out of his own eye (straighten out his own life) before going after the man with the mote. Note: Jesus nowhere intimated that the man with the mote did not need to get rid of his mote but indicated that he might need some help to do it. But He did make it unmistakably clear that the man with the beam was not qualified to do it as long as he had his beam. However, verse 5 does indicate that this very same man with the beam could turn out to be the man who could help the man with the mote if he got rid of his beam and got his life straightened out. It is remarkable to note how effectively God can use a person in helping others who have been way out and far off course, if he will just see his need, confess it, humble his heart, repent, straighten out his life, and just come clear and clean with God.
In verse 6, Jesus speaks about not giving the holy things to dogs nor casting pearls before swine. So it is evident that in these verses He is not forbidding us to properly evaluate the worth of other people. How could we avoid giving holy things to dogs and casting pearls before swine if we had no God-given ability to discern who was swinish or doggish? But what is actually involved here is a rebuke of an attitude on anyone’s part to look for the worst instead of the best. Blindness to his own faults has overtaken the man who is looking for specks. My father used to say that mote hunters got their hunting licenses from the devil. A person would not likely see a mere speck unless he was actually looking for it. The person who is a perpetual faultfinder and chronic critic is usually anxious to find something wrong because the attitude of his heart renders him unwilling to give a clear bill of health to the one criticized. Herein is one of the answers to the question in the text: the person’s attitude and motives are not right and cause him to do this.
In some cases this thing is done with an objective of salving one’s own conscience. If we have glaring faults in our lives, somehow it seems to help us feel a little better if we can make someone else look bad along with us. We somehow get a false and mistaken idea that we won’t look quite so bad if someone by the side of us can be made to look bad, too. But let us take no comfort in this. If you were dying with some malady, what comfort would it be to you for someone to come visit you and say, “Oh, brother, be of good courage and don’t worry about a thing; hundreds of people out there are dying with the same thing you have.” What comfort could it possibly be to you just to know that many others were being destroyed right along with you?
Another answer is that some people seek to build up themselves by tearing down others. They reason thus: God is blessing and using this person in an unusual way, and he is having strong influence among the people. If I can point up enough faults about him, criticize his methods, point out something that has not been accomplished, and downgrade him in the eyes of the people, then I can stand forth as a paragon of perfection in their eyes by just comparing myself in his trimmed down size.
Another answer is envy. Envy is the most malignant of all vices; a child of hate with a long, ugly, criminal record Cain, Saul, the Prodigal’s elder brother, the Jews against Jesus, the 70 princes of Babylon against Daniel, and on and on. Cain envied Abel because God respected Abel and accepted his sacrifice and did not respect Cain and accept his sacrifice. Cain never bothered to check into the cause of this, but just saw that it was that way and flew into his brother in a rage of envy and slew him. Saul became envious of David because the people ascribed to David ten thousands and to Saul only thousands, and from that time on eyed him and sought opportunity to destroy him. The Prodigal Son’s elder brother became envious of his younger brother because of the graciousness of his father to his brother when he returned from his wanderings. The prodigal’s brother found fault with his father for receiving him back and refused to go in and share in the bounties of the banquet and the rejoicing of the occasion. He wound up on the short end and in worse shape than his prodigal brother, and deprived himself of many bountiful benefits that he could have had and enjoyed. We always do when we give place to envy in our hearts toward another person. Pilate discerned that the Jews delivered Jesus to him to be crucified because of envy. We sometimes inflict the pangs of crucifixion upon our fellows with our tongues of envy; and, oh, the terrible loss we suffer on account of it. The 70 princes of Babylon were moved with envy against Daniel because they saw him being favored by the king and promoted above them and concocted a scheme to destroy him. And so He does all those who humbly submit themselves and trust Him in those times. He says in Psalm 31:20, “…Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.”