Then Jesus gave the following illustration: “Can one blind person lead another? Won’t they both fall into a ditch? Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher. “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a beam in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the beam in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the beam in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.Luke 6:39-42
This is a pericope that both Matthew and Luke use in their respective gospels. Up until now with the sermon on the mount / plateau most of Luke’s material can also be found in Matthew. But the same cannot be said for Matthew. Up to this point he has included a lot of different material as well. In this case they have come back in sync again except they have topped and tailed it differently. Luke opens this segment with reference to an illustration or parable and then leads with the blind leading the blind comment. He follows that with the analogy of the fully trained pupil being like the teacher. From that point on Luke and Matthew are in sync until the end when Matthew closes his segment with the injunction not to give holy things to dogs or throw pearls to pigs. Apart from those differences the passages are the same. Again we will focus on Luke’s account because of course it is Luke we are working through pericope by pericope. Luke uses this segment for a different purpose than Matthew.
Some see no connection between this section and what went before it. Others see it is all interconnected. I will leave you to sort out what you think about it. Is there a connection with respect to the segment about the student and teachers? I think so. Choose the right master depending on what you want to become. You hearers must leave the old masters (Pharisees) and follow the new master (Jesus). But be careful because you will become like your teacher. If they fail to see the obvious, you will too as their student. You will take on the aberrations of your teacher. There is a negative tone to the comment about becoming like the teacher. Having a beam in your eye is not a good thing. The inference is the teachers have the beam in their eye so therefore the students will end up with beams in their eyes as well. It seems beams in the eye are catching.
We need to link the elements “blind guides” with “beams stuck in their eyes“. Don’t let it escape you that they go together. An amusing word picture isn’t it. Just ponder it for a moment. The image of two blind people stumbling around in their own darkness (in terms of leaders and teachers, their own self-imposed darkness) with one trying to lead the other is comical. So too is the huge irony of the leader not being able to see to lead the led. Either because they are blind or because they have a huge beam in their eye while they are trying to get a speck out of the eye of someone else. Not only would the beam get in the way of seeing the speck in another’s eye, but it would keep hitting the “patient” in the process of the so called removal. It’s a dirty great beam for goodness sake. The slight imperfection in other people is often more apparent to us than the glaring one in ourselves. We must be prepared to judge yourselves before judging others.
(Yes that’s right the overtones of the passages before this one are being carried forward here). Don’t judge others; but be prepared to examine and judge yourself.
There are huge difficulties involved in helping someone else if we have the same problem they have. If indeed you have gained victory in a specific area that a friend is struggling with then you can be of immense help. You can share from your own experience, reassuring them that you too have experienced the same thing and this is how you got free. But in order to do that you must first recognize that you yourself have the same problem. If you don’t or won’t recognize it then you can’t be of much help. Once you have recognized it in yourself you then have to confess to them that you were once like that too. You have been there; done that. But then you have to be able to tell them how you got free of it. If you haven’t got free of it yet then you can’t help. If you won’t admit you have the same problem then the situation is even worse. To attempt to help someone else be a free of a problem that you still have is play acting. It is like trying to get a speck out of their eye while you have a huge beam in your eye. It’s ridiculous. It becomes a joke bordering on the absurd. It makes you a hypocrite.
Now let me tell you more about the beam, the log or the plank. The term used in this passage is [dokos]. It is the load bearing beam in the roof. The central component to the edifice of the building. The dokos by virtue of what it is, has to be a huge piece of timber in height and breadth as well as length. To have a beam of that dimension sticking out of your eye, it would be hitting everyone in the room. The speck [karphos] is the smallest, insignificant little irritant in ones eye. The contrast is massive. The one: huge and significant; the other: minute and insignificant. The one is of utmost important to the structure, the other is irrelevant and pointless to take note of. All of this relates to teaching or structures of thought too. The pharisees are running around worrying about keeping the law to the extent that they tithe on mint, dill and cumin but in the process miss the fact that the Messiah they have been waiting centuries for is standing right in front of them. Something is wrong with their basic load bearing beam of teaching. Do you get the point? All of this goes together.
“You hypocrite.” Now we move on to the other most significant word in this section. The term “hypocrite” was used in Greek dramas or plays for the actor who was merely playing a role. Play acting. They would have a mask which was held in place to cover their face and assume the role they were playing. The Pharisees were assuming the role of teacher and yet were not teaching the truth. It was all a carefully constructed farce. Saying one thing and keeping appearances on the outside while all the time thinking and practicing something entirely different on the inside. The one who does that in the guise of helping a friend with their problem; a problem which in fact the helper has himself/herself, is merely play acting or has the same spirit as the Pharisees. Much more is said about this by Matthew (Chapt 23). Read that chapter to get a better idea of what is being meant by Luke in this section.
Much more could be said but I have already gone on long enough. Can you see the point which connects all of this together or is there a beam in your eye?
Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping them up.Jessie Jackson
When you’re too religious, you tend to point your finger to judge instead of extending your hand to help.Anon
What condemnation could possibly be more harsh than one’s own, when self-pretense is no longer possible?Richard Matheson
Make no judgements where you have no compassion.Anne McCaffrey
When one experiences truth, the madness of finding fault with others disappears.Anon
There are two days in my calendar: This day and That Day.Martin Luther