The Log in your own Eye, by Katie Snipes Lancaster
Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s or sister’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Brother, Sister, let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when you don’t see the log in your own eye? You deceive yourselves! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye. Luke 6:41–42
Reflection: This parable is a gut-punch for the judgy part of ourselves. And it’s immediately understood—get your own problems worked out before you start critiquing your siblings.
In poetry the philosophy is “show, don’t tell.” Similarly Jesus’ parables are image-stories that garner a response, urge us to change our hearts, minds, and actions or push us to reframe how we understand the world. So unlike the fifth century philosopher Demokritos who comes right out and says, “It is better to correct one’s own faults than those of others” or fourth century Diogenes’ advice, “Avoid what you find blameworthy in others.” Jesus uses an evocative image—a (huge!) log in your eye and a (teeny-tiny) splinter in your sibling’s eye—to communicate the same kind of folk wisdom.
We shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus uses the image of sight/blindness to urge us forward. The theme of sight is scattered across the gospel of Luke, first when the Shepherds see Jesus at the manger and glorify God in response, then when Simeon rejoices that his eyes have seen the salvation promised, and later when the Centurion sees Jesus’ death and glorifies God. Jesus declares that recovery of the sight to the blind is key to his mission. Those witnessing the healing of a paralyzed man glorify God for the amazing thing they have seen. Then near the end of the gospel, on the road to Emmaus the disciples’ eyes are opened, and they recognize the risen Christ.
Lent has the capacity to be a season of introspection—looking inward. How does this parable help you to look at your life in a new way? Might it help you see (and maybe even remove) the log in your eye? Might such introspection shift your relationship to those you love, those toward whom you have been most critical?
Change us, O Christ, from the inside out. Amen.