Monday, July 11, 2005

Plank-eyed People

You may have heard of them. You may have seen them. You may know one or more of them. You may even be one yourself—the Plank-eyed People! Jesus told us about them 2000 years ago, and you’d think that by now their race would be extinct. But no, if anything they seem to have multiplied and flourished, and they stubbornly establish themselves in Christian communities of every sort.

“Why do you notice the speck
in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?... You hypocrite, remove the plank from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). It’s clear then—if I’m seeing correctly—that Plank-eyed People are hypocrites: in this case, people who judge small faults in others while being oblivious to their own greater ones. They are so “magnanimous” as to even wish to correct the little faults of their poor speck-eyed brethren. That’s actually a way of remaining blind to the plank: focus on someone else’s faults and you’ll never see your own.

St Paul referred to the Plank-eyed people, though not by name, in chapter two of the Letter to the Romans. They surface here and there throughout Scripture, but mostly we learn about them from Jesus Himself, when talking to or about the Pharisees. The Plank-eyes may seem to do pretty well for themselves, but it won’t last. Somewhere down the line everyone must pay the price for willful blindness or stubborn hypocrisy. Why? Because “as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (Mt. 7:2). If every Christian would deeply meditate on that one line alone the whole world (or at least the whole Church) would change radically for the better.

We just don’t seem to get it. Listen again: “as you judge, so will you be judged.” One more time: “the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” I guess we don’t think that’s true, because we keep judging others in ways we would not wish to be judged, and measuring out to others what we would not wish to be measured out to ourselves—not realizing what the consequences are for the way we regard and treat others. Woe to us on the Last Day when we see how we judged, how we measured others, finally realizing—but all too late—that what we did to others we did to Christ. If we die still refusing to remove the planks, they will be used as fuel for an everlasting fire to be set beneath us.

So let us not be among the Plank-eyed People. There is still time to change. If Jesus tells us to remove the planks, that means it is possible to do so. With the help of God’s grace, remove the planks and build with them a stand upon which to place the book of the Holy Gospel. Now you will see clearly to read the word of the Lord—and maybe even to help your brother with that little speck in his eye.