THE MOTE AND THE BEAM

August 16, 2021
Jesus said:

"[W]hy beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye. Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."

(Matthew 7:3-5.) A "mote" is a tiny speck of sawdust. A "beam" is a plank. As a carpenter, Jesus knew about such things. He probably had sawdust specks in his eyes numerous times.

Who really walks around with a plank hanging off their eyeballs? Pastor Tim Keller says this is Jesus doing stand up comedy during The Sermon on the Mount to make a serious point. You literally don't have a plank hanging out of your eye, but when a speck of something gets in your eye, it is up close enough that it looks like a plank. The closer we are to something the bigger it looks. And this is as it should be. In terms of perspective, we should look a lot more closely at our own problems than we look at others. Our own problems should seem bigger in our eyes, than those of the people around us.

When you have something in your eye, it blurs your vision and irritates and distracts you until you get it out.  It keeps you from seeing clearly. (Even as I was writing this, I got something in my eye. I kept trying to write but really couldn't see properly or focus my attention until I got the thing out of my eye.) Jesus' analogy is about perspective. What looks like a mote in someone else's eye looks like a beam when it is in your own eye. It stops you from judging accurately or helpfully. What could the beam represent? It represents the sin that lives inside you. It could be anger or bitterness toward a former spouse. It could be our own self-serving self deceit. Sin is not merely a black mark on a Heavenly tally sheet somewhere. It is not outside of us. It lives within us. That is why it is so degrading to the soul.

The beginning of seeing clearly is repentance--not just of individual acts of wrongdoing, but of the sin that lives within us. It means forgiving and asking forgiveness for the bitterness we have been carrying. That is the beginning of spiritual healing.

Once you see clearly, how do you go about helping others? How do you take the moat out of someone else's eye? Pastor Tim Keller also spoke to this by posing the question of how we might respond to someone who came to us to get something out of our eye with a hammer and nail, or even a pair of tweezers. We would wince and turn away. We would tell them to please use a tissue and be very careful. That is the higher and better way of correcting others--with extreme gentleness.

The bitterness many experience during and after divorce is not a good place from which to develop a new relationship. Some who have lost a spouse to death may experience resentment toward God or others who they may blame. Some who have never married yet may experience bitterness toward people they have dated or wanted to date who they feel treated them unfairly or never gave them a chance to start with.

When dating during the middle years, what are most of us looking for? We are looking for the mote in someone else's eye. We are looking for the "red flags" that tell us this person is dangerous. How many of us see a mote in the eye of a dating partner, which is really just a splinter from the beam that is in our own eye? How many of us cannot make clear judgments because we are so full of bitterness? The way out of this predicament is to focus on the beam in our own eye.

If you want to make a relationship that improves your previous life experience, a big part of it is the internal thought work that is required to change. It is focusing on the thing in our own eyes rather than the speck in the other person's eye, whether that be a former spouse, a dating partner, a parent, or anyone else.

My prayer is that we can release the trauma and bitterness that lives within us, through the atonement of Jesus Christ, and find the peace we need to see clearly. Remember:

”The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!"

(Matthew 6:22-23.) Let us be so filled with the love of Christ that there is no more room for bitterness or blame.

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