Luke 6:39-42 “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
What is the difference between the two men in the first little parable Jesus tells here? There isn’t any! Both of them suffer the same handicap. Both of them are blind. There is this possible difference to note: one of them has appointed himself a leader over the other, though he has no qualifications to do so. He can only get them into trouble.
Blindness is a picture for our natural spiritual ignorance. It is a condition into which every human is born. We are all in this boat together. We are fellow strugglers. No one is naturally enlightened and in a position to lead others under their own natural powers.
Jesus tells these parables in connection with his command, “Do not judge.” Spiritually, none of us sits in an ivory tower, far superior to all the others. There is no basis for us to conclude that, by ourselves, we are in a position to hand down judgments to our inferiors. That kind of condescending judgment of others is simply out of place for people who share the same spiritual blindness as everyone else.
Only if a blind man was himself being led by someone who could see would he be in a position to lead another blind person. Spiritually, then, we need to be students of the one who can see. So Jesus continues to the next illustration, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
When we are students of Jesus, then we have found safe spiritual leadership. But Jesus doesn’t lead us to spiritual pride and condescending judgment. Knowing Jesus is not an excuse for me to complain, “I am surrounded by idiots.” I am still one of the idiots, completely dependent on Jesus’ wisdom. We become something like our teacher only when Jesus’ wisdom keeps leading us back to the mercy of a heavenly Father who prefers forgiveness to judgment.
Jesus’ third illustration also puts us in our place. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
It hurts to get something in your eye. Even little things can threaten our vision. When I have something in my eye, I often find someone and ask them for help.
In the same way, Jesus is not saying we should not help others with their sinful shortcomings, the speck in their eye. But how can we do that properly if we don’t recognize our own sinful shortcomings? All sin is sin in God’s eyes, but not acknowledging that we have sin is like having a huge beam in our eyes. It makes it impossible for us to judge anything else correctly. There is no way we could see properly to help someone else with their sin if we don’t even understand our own. So long as we believe we are better than others Jesus warns, “Do not judge.”
So what do we do with the prideful, self-righteous beam in our eye? Removing it requires supernatural help, and Jesus is just the divine doctor to do so. He extracts the beam with his law, as his words have just been doing. He heals the wound with his forgiveness, which is always big enough to cover any job. In the process he teaches us humility, and makes us qualified to help others, now that we know our place.