And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)
“Hey!” My wife calls me from the other room to the kitchen. “Do you see this?” I don’t. I step up closer, put on my glasses and bend down to examine the evidence. There is a crumb there on the kitchen counter. It’s a breadcrumb. It was left by me, evidence of my careless sandwich making efforts from earlier in the day. Bending low I can see it. She saw it from ten feet away while passing quickly by the kitchen. How does she do that?
“Did you make a sandwich here?” she asks. I mumble something about never having touched bread in my life and brush it into the sink. I have several reasons (excuses if you insist on calling them such) as to why I allowed such an obvious mess to remain on our counter. My first excuse has to do with the camouflaged nature of the counter tile. It was obviously designed by a housewife who laughed and laughed while creating it, knowing husbands just like me would be unable to detect their sandwich making transgressions and pay a heavy price. If that one doesn’t work, I have a more elaborate story of being kidnapped at birth by a tribe of New Guinea tribesmen who were notoriously lax about leaving crumbs everywhere in the tent in which I was raised. Fortunately, she is distracted and my creative, crumb-excusing comments are unnecessary.
Thinking of my fallen crumbs, however, makes me think of a common fault of which many of us are guilty today. While my messes are usually more than a single crumb and my wife is justified in keeping me accountable for cleaning them up, there are others, both in the Church and outside, who are excellent “crumb cops” when it comes to the lives of others. This is never more apparent than in an election cycle where every crumb of a candidate’s life is examined and scrutinized under the ultimate microscope: the eyes of others.
Let me be quick to admit that I am no less guilty of this than others. I have shaken my head at the faults of someone else when I myself was no less guilty of the same trespass. It was just easier to see when it was their sin or character fault rather than one in my own life. How is it that we have 20/20 vision and can see the problem from half a mile away when it comes to other’s faults when we have to get our glasses on and look closely before we’ll admit the same fault in ourselves? We know why! Seeing the faults in others distracts us from having to take responsibility for our own shortcomings. Not only does it divert our attention away from our own “crumbs,” but we can somehow feel as though we are doing the world a service by pointing out someone else’s failings.
Going back to the election, this is not to say that we shouldn’t expect much from our leaders or that the American people don’t have the right to rigorously vet the candidates who are asking for our vote for the highest office in the land. We should and we do. My point is that it would make the world a better place if we would use the same laser-like precision in identifying our own misdeeds and faults as we do the faults of others. In reality, there are no points for seeing in others what we’ve failed (or refused) to see in ourselves. We all have crumbs. The point is not to attack others for theirs while denying our own.
“Hey!” My wife says while moving toward the coffee pot. I freeze like a deer in the woods, hoping I’ll blend into my surroundings and be undetectable. She’s found the grounds I left on the counter. I’m remembering how the Keurig has been mysteriously spewing grounds all over the place for no reason despite my best attempts to keep the area spotless! In my desperation, it sounds plausible! In reality, it’s not that big of a deal. I will take responsibility for my spilled grounds, clean up my mess, and life will go on. In fact, life will be good. It’s not the spilled grounds that are the issue anyway. The more serious problem comes when we deny our own mess, willing only to see the crumbs others have left behind.
Today with the advent of social media sights and the smartphone, there is a phenomenon occurring with which our society has not yet learned to cope. Now if someone has a conflict, acts like an idiot cursing out a checker in Walmart, or is pulled over by the police for drunk driving (just to name a few), it is likely to be posted on social media for all the world to see. Sins which may have been a momentary hiccup in someone’s life before can be replayed and viewed literally millions of times over while the masses laugh, forward it to their friends, and make derisive comments. To me, this is emblematic of the problem to which I am referring. We have only to ask how we would like own transgressions broadcasted for all the world to see to understand how painful it can be for others to have to relive their worst moments again and again.
In the end, it would be best if we would be harder on ourselves than we are on others, realizing that our criticisms are often just our attempt to excuse ourselves from dealing with similar issues in our own lives. Jesus said that we should remove the plank out of our own eye before looking to remove the speck from our brother’s eye. This would be a good standard for all of us to use in this regard. If we would see our own faults as the larger, more immediate issue to deal with and our brother’s as smaller and incidental by comparison, the world would be a better place. And, practically speaking, when I have genuinely dealt with an issue in my own life, I usually have more compassion and am able to truly help someone who is struggling in the same area. This, I believe, is in keeping with the spirit of Christ. It’s not that we should ignore the crumbs, but we should be mindful of the messes we’ve left behind in our own lives before pointing out the same in others.
Dr. Randy Bunch is the pastor of West Kern Christian Center, located at 1000 6th Street in Taft, as well as a graduate advisor and adjunct professor at Summit Bible College in Bakersfield, California. He is the author of several books, including his new devotional, Immutable: Changeless Truth for a Changing World. For more information, or to purchase your copy, go to immuntablebook.com. For more information on the ministries of WKCC, you can go the ministry’s website at wkcconnect.org.