Have you seen the recent Swiss Chalet commercial? A man and a woman are eating ribs. She has a massive smear of rib sauce on her face, and he has a tiny little speck on his. He wants to tell her, but he hesitates, trying to find the right words, trying to be polite. While he pauses, she says, “You have some rib sauce on your face.” She was quick to point out his mess without paying any attention to her own. This reminds me of the parable of the speck and the beam from Matthew 7:1-5.
Jesus was teaching his followers not to judge. A lot of people use this passage to defend themselves against others who would correct them. They quote Matthew 7:1, but they often misrepresent the point. There are certainly times in our lives when we do have to use some judgement—to discern right from wrong, to settle disputes, to make good choices—but we should not use it to condemn others for things that we haven’t been able to overcome ourselves. This is especially true of motives. We should not presume to know what is in another person’s heart or to understand why they have chosen the path they have. To judge a person’s heart is the responsibility of God alone.
Jesus uses hyperbole—exaggeration—to illustrate His point. Imagine, trying to get a speck of dirt out of someone else’s eye. It’s a very difficult thing to do in the best of circumstances. You need excellent lighting and a willing patient. Now imagine trying to do that if you had a beam the size of a tree trunk sticking out of your own eye. You wouldn’t be able to get close enough to see the speck in your friend’s eye. You would certainly need to deal with your own problem first. Before you judge another’s heart, make sure that your heart is right. If it is, you won’t need, or want, to judge. And make sure you have a lot of serviettes handy when eating ribs.
If you haven't seen it, watch the commercial here: