“How can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is 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.” ~ Matthew 7:4-5


A couple weeks ago, my husband David shared a quote from one of his favorite podcasts, the Art of Accomplishment. I’m probably going to mutilate the original (sorry, Joe), but it went something like this:

Keeping an open mind doesn’t just mean listening to someone else and not trying to find what’s wrong with their argument. Keeping an open mind means searching for what’s wrong in your own.

 I believe my response was something along the lines of “Wow. Huh. That’s…that’s really good.”

It’s also really hard.

And you know what else it is? Really Scriptural. Really what Jesus tells us to do.

Here’s the thing about that thing He says to the Pharisees in Matthew 7…it sounds really obvious, like they should know they have a PLANK in their eye–I mean, if you get a big ol’ chip of wood in your eye, you notice, right?!

Generally, yes. But our “planks” aren’t always made of wood. Sometimes they’re more like cataracts, or like vision that has changed over time. Sometimes they’re something so ever-present that we get used to them. Sometimes we just don’t know that we’re not seeing clearly.

Do you wear glasses? Do you remember that time you went to the eye doctor, and it had been too long or your eyes had changed a lot? Do you remember when he or she put the right lenses in front of you through those little goggle things? Can you hear yourself in your memory? I bet you said something like this: “Whoa! That’s what it’s supposed to look like? I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten!”

To the doctor who just heard us bumble through those letter or shape charts, our problem is no secret. It’s very clear to them that we can’t tell an E from an F from a chicken. But us? We think we’re just fine. We think they started us off on “the hard one.” We think that all’s well in the world and we’re seeing clearly, just like we always were.

But we’re not. And we don’t know if we’re not unless we’re keeping up with those health-checks or paying attention to our senses. We don’t know unless we try to know, many times. We don’t know until we either see what it’s supposed to be, or someone we recognize as having authority and wisdom tells us so.

Jesus wasn’t just talking to the Pharisees that day, though. He was talking to all of us. Because we are all so quick to see the flaws in someone else’s argument, even if they’re small; we are so quick to look for reasons to disagree with people we don’t like or who are opposed to our views. We are so quick to judge. And even when we check that, when we say, “I won’t point out their speck of dust or try to remove it,” that’s not enough, is it?

Jesus didn’t just say, “Don’t try to remove their speck when you have a plank in your eye.” He said, “First remove the plank from your own eye.”

First, identify your own faults. Your own flaws. Your own skewed vision. Notice it’s there, and then dig it out. Look for where you’re wrong.

In the book I’ll soon be turning in to my editor, The Library of Burned Books, one of the big themes is censorship–the worst possible kind, the kind that is self-selected. Because the German book burning and bannings were not government-led, they were demanded by the people. A people who had decided they didn’t want to engage with certain ideas anymore. Who deliberately purged those ideas from their culture. A tyranny of the people, of the social consciousness, is a powerful, deadly thing. And something we’re seeing today.

But the answer isn’t as simple as “don’t.” The answer is “do the opposite.” My hero puts it this way (we’ll see if it remains as quoted here, LOL, but as of right now…):

“Read things you hate and things you love and things you never thought you’d understand, and never, never accept the excuse that it’s not for you. That you’re not smart enough or deep enough or strong enough to handle it if you read something that offends you. You are. You’re strong enough to admit where you’re wrong and then to grow. You’re strong enough to be offended and then try to understand why. You’re strong enough to grant that someone can be different and still be worthy of dignity. And if you aren’t?” He slammed one more book onto the stack. “Then read more, until you are.”

The only way to remove the plank is to identify it. And the only way to identify it is to look. And the only way to look is to engage with other ideas, compare them to your own, to approach your every belief with care and speculation and introspection. To assume nothing. No, wait–to assume you don’t have it all right. Because I promise, you don’t. I believe 100% that God’s Word is Truth…but I also know that I fail in my understanding of it. I know Christ was enough–but I know I do a lousy job of accepting it. I know the Spirit will provide the answers–but I know I don’t always listen.

What would happen if we took that form of humility though? What would happen if we approached each debate, each conversation, each argument with that perspective? What would happen if we didn’t shy away from being wrong but REJOICED when we found where we were blind, so that we could remove it?l

We wouldn’t all just have open minds. We’d have open hearts. Full hearts. Hearts overflowing with love.

Lord, show me today the plank I have left in my eye.

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