Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? 5 You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5, NET)
Have you ever gotten a speck of sawdust in the eye? It is a surprising that something so small could be such an enormously painful irritant. Thankfully the Lord made it so, because the human eye is a quality coated lens that is very sensitive to light, allowing us to be enriched by its visual receptivity. But being sensitive has its drawbacks, because the eye is also vulnerable to scratches and abrasions. Thus, the discomfort we feel warns us we need to remove the foreign fragment that threatens our eye’s destruction.
But one does not simply pluck a speck from one’s own eye. Neither can one do so for another. To attempt to do so may cause additional harm, as human fingers (especially dirty ones) can be boorish instruments. And the natural reflex of the eye makes it nearly impossible for us to allow another to do so. Rather, the eye must be flushed with water.
And as the eye wash stations at my workplace depict through simple illustrations, the person must bring their head down and open their eyes wide in order for the streams of water to rinse away any damaging debris.
And so it is with spiritual specks.
God first makes all that is foreign to our image bearing soul an enormous irritant (Job 33:16-17; 36:8-11), and we are driven to seek the removal of our pain to avoid destruction (Job 33:29-30; 36:15). But much as we try, we are not able to tear it from our hearts (Rom 7:21-24). But neither can another believer reach inside and remove it for us. For we are all clumsy, spiritual brutes, doing more harm than good. There is only one Savior (Isa 43:11), and we should take the approach of Christ before His church—sanctifying us by cleansing us through the washing of the water by the word (Eph 5:26-27). Our hearts must be flushed with pure water (Eze 36:25-27).
So then what is our part in this process? For the one bleary eyed with the sinful substance, we must bow our head in submission (Jam 4:7-10) heeding the voices of faithful disciples ahead of us (1Co 11:1). We must enter the cool stream with eyes wide open (Jer 29:13; Job 35:5; Psa 46:8; 119:18), enduring the initial sting of God’s loving rebuke (Heb 12:6; Pro 3:11-12; Rev 3:12) in order for our heart to be cleansed of impurities.
And as for the one assisting with clear eyes, we must lead (Gal 6:1; Eph 4:15) the one staggering to the eyewash station by going there ourselves (1Ti 4:12). We must demonstrate its use by our own actions—bowing our head (Psa 95:6) and eagerly leaning into the water (Psa 23:4; Pro 12:1; Heb 12:7) by confessing our own discomfort and need (1Jo 1:9), all the while speaking of the refreshing benefits of remaining in the stream (Psa 119:165).