Who is Jesus rebuking? (Matthew 7:1-6)

It is obvious that Jesus is describing a possible problem in the lives of his disciples. We can see this from his use of the term ‘brother’. Yet he is also probably describing a wrong way of dealing with people that was common at that time. He is still speaking about the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees that his disciples are to exceed.

The righteousness of the Pharisees was connected to all the additional rules that they added to God’s requirements. There were several hundred such additions to God’s law. Those additions were not required by God, but the Pharisees made them as important as God’s commandments, and they judged anyone who failed to meet their extra rules.

Jesus likens those extra requirements to a big log that is in the Pharisee’s eye. What does this illustration tell us about their extra rules? First, it means that they had no vision. In Psalm 19, David tells us what the effects of God’s commandments are – they give light, enabling a believer to make progress in the life of faith. In contrast, the rules that the Pharisees added were of no help at all in discovering the revealed will of God. Remember that Jesus later called them blind Pharisees.

Second, the rules they produced prevented close contact with other people. Whenever a person met a Pharisee, he would be hit by the log in the Pharisee’s eye. Jesus is saying that the requirements of the Pharisees damaged other people severely. They would not get a little tap from the log – after all, it was not a splinter that was sticking out of the Pharisee’s eye.

Third, the Pharisees found fault with trivial things. Jesus likens the matters they criticised to specks. Of course, the specks were not good, but they were not dangerous. Yet the self-righteous Pharisees majored on the minors. Of course, in order to find a speck, one has to engage in focussed scrutiny. Most people would not notice specks, but Pharisees do.

Fourth, the requirement for a person dealing with the faults of others is to get rid of his own faults first. How was the individual in the illustration going to get rid of the plank in his eye? It would be impossible for him to pull it out because it was beyond his reach. So he would need to get help from someone else. He could ask a friend to help him, but would his friends have the skills to deal with it? They would not. Instead, the only person who could remove the plank safely is God. It looks as if Jesus was saying that such sins can only be removed by the special treatment of the heavenly Physician.

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