But in the context of this verse we get a different message. From verse 3 on, we read that Jesus said that we are to help our brothers and sisters to see what doesn’t glorify God in their lives, (which requires judgement) but only after we have examined our own lives. When we do that we might discover that our faults are bigger than the ones we are pointing out in them.
“Why do you look at 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 bother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, FIRST take the plank out of your own eye, and THEN you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (7:3-5, emphasis mine).
Jesus didn’t say not to correct a brother. He warned us about the right way to go about it. If we don’t look after our own faults then we will soon be on the receiving end of someone else’s rebuke for the sins we have committed—exceedingly embarrassing.
I’ve always wondered why verse 6 was stuck in the middle of this message. It says: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” As I was thinking through what precedes this verse and what comes after, here’s my conclusion. Even after we have allowed the Holy Spirit to examine our lives for “planks” and have confessed those sins and allowed Him to “clean up our act” we need to remember that trying to help a brother with a course correction doesn’t work well if that brother is not prepared to accept our counsel. We may have “pearls” of biblical wisdom to pass on, but if that person is going to be “piggish” about the issue then we are well advised to not say anything. We might only make the situation worse.
So how do we know when to speak to a brother or sister about some issue, once we have dealt with our own? That’s where Matthew 7:7-12 comes in. We are to ask God for the wisdom we need to know when the right time is, and what the right words are.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” Jesus goes on to say that when we ask God, he, being the Father that He is, will not give us wrong advice, or supply what it not correct for the occasion. This message is followed up in James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like the wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
The conclusion of the matter is found in Matthew 7:12. Jesus says: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the prophets.” We usually think of this as doing good to others so that they will do good back. But in this context a different light is shone on this verse. I want someone to come to me and show me where I am going wrong so that I can get better and become more like Christ. But that person can only help me have clear spiritual vision when they have allowed the Spirit of God to clear their own vision and have asked God for wisdom to know what to say, how to say it and when to say it. That person is doing me a tremendous favour and being a blessing in my life when he or she becomes God’s instrument of course correction for me. For me to do the same for someone else, after having looked after my “planks” and after having asked God for direction, is the greatest favour I can do for them.
After all, what better blessing can we bestow than to help someone become more like Jesus? And what greater blessing can we receive than to be helped to become more like Jesus?