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Do You Notice The Splinter of Someone Else’s Eye?

A Reflection on Luke 6:39-45

By Fr. Ron


Our gospel reading on this Eight Sunday of Ordinary time is a continuation of the Sermon on the Plain from Luke’s gospel. We have been listening to it for three weeks now. It corresponds (more or less) to the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s gospel. This week and last week in particular, we have heard some very challenging teachings on the part of Jesus.


Today Jesus uses a figure of speech called hyperbole. You probably learned about it in school. It means an exaggeration that is used for effect. That’s clearly what Jesus intends here. He wants to get our attention. Jesus was also using a little humor when he said,


“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? (Luke 6).


Try to imagine this in your mind. Get you head around it. A speck in your eye is not difficult for us to imagine. We have all had specks in our eyes (dust, eyelash, etc.). But can you imagine a plank in your eye? (Close your eyes and imagine what that would look like.)

One commentator on this gospel passage wrote:

“We find it so easy to turn a microscope on another person’s sin, but we look at ours through the wrong end of a telescope. We easily spot a speck of phoniness in another, because we have a logjam of it in our own lives. Wrath toward the speck in someone else’s life may come from the suppressed guilt over the same massive sin in our own lives.”


It’s interesting to know that speck and plank are from the same original word, meaning they are of the same substance. Jesus, being the son of a carpenter, would know about planks and saw dust.

That was Jesus’ way of saying that the reason some people are so adept at finding fault in the lives of others is because they are so familiar with it themselves. They can spot certain things in another person’s life because they are guilty of the same sin—in probably a greater capacity. Sometimes the people who are nitpicking the sins of others are guilty of far worse themselves.


In our polarized world, people are very quick to lob hand grenades at each other. Social media gives us easy access to a huge megaphone to make known our judgments of one another. We are encouraged to “like” or “not like” just about everything. On some social media platforms you can see the attacks on people for no other reason than “I don’t agree.” We have all heard the sad stories of people who have suffered humiliation, harassment, shaming and endless ridicule in various social media platforms.


Podcasts and blogs are the favorite weapons used to pass judgment on the actions of others and their motives. The blogosphere provides a home for opinionated people who cannot resist passing judgment on others according to their own criteria. Of course, blogs, social media and so many other parts of the world wide web have so many positive uses as well. But the abuses abound in our polarized world and the internet gives a much wider audience to our judgments of others.

For those not into technology and social media, gossip is still a preferred way to pass judgment on others. Some people know how to be prosecutor, jury and judge all in one conversation

I was shocked to read in a reputable psychological journal that 80% of conversation is gossip. But I guess I wasn’t that surprised because I have been hearing confessions for 45 years. The study noted that any topic or person, or situation that you repeatedly gossip about points you to your own problems that you’re trying to avoid facing.


You have probably heard of the psychological concept called projection. Basically, projection is when you take all the nasty parts of yourself—the greed, the lust, the cruelty—and, instead of acknowledging them in yourself, push them out onto other people. When you say everyone seems like a total insensitive jerk, you are denying the part of yourself that’s an insensitive jerk. And so judging others is not only hurtful to them but also a form of avoiding addressing our own areas that need improvement.


Jesus said it clearly: Do not judge and you will not be judged. Or in the wisdom of my mother: “If you can’t think of anything good to say about another person, don’t say anything at all.”

In the end, only God can judge us, our actions, our motives – for God can see into the heart. I close with these words from the Letter of James (4:11-12)


Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?


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