Sunday, June 28, 2009


I am sunburnt. It sucks. It is not an incredibly bad sunburn, growing up in Florida I have had plenty of those. But this one is just mildly unpleasant. HOWEVER, it has made me increasingly tired. You know, on account of my body trying to heal all those damaged skin cells and fight off possible infection.

I got a sunburn from swimming in the pool in the middle of the day with Brooke. We were only in the pool for about 35 minutes or so, but that doesn't matter. It was more than enough to burn the bejesus out of my shoulders and back. However, Brooke was covered in sunscreen, because I wanted to make sure she didn't get a sunburn. Do you taste the irony? Is it delicious?

Surprisingly, this actually made me think of a part of Matthew. Matthew 7: 3-5 to be specific. "3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You 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."

Usually when I hear this verse preached, or read about it, the verse is being used as an example against judging others. Which is kinda fair, as verses 1-2 read "1Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

However, just read Matthew 7 at some point and see how Jesus is rapid firing out pithy sayings 2-3 verses long for about the whole chapter. Some of them can be tied together at least a little bit, but for the most part it's pretty disconnected. Personally, I don't think ver 3-5 tie to 1-2 as much as some would assume they do. Why? Glad you asked!

Look at the two characters in the illustration of Mat 7:3-5. One with a speck, one with a plank (let's call them S and P respectively for simplicity). Jesus is focusing on P obviously, but what is the motivation of P for what he is saying? If you were to assume that this is a continuation of ver 1-2 you'd say that it would be he is judging S, right? It makes sense, that's what we hear and read. But just look at verse 4 for a sec, "4How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?" If P were actually just worrying about judging S why would he want to remove the speck from S's eye? Wouldn't that remove what it is that P is 'judging' him for in the first place? That doesn't make sense.

But P says "Let me take the speck out of your eye." Why does he say it? Why would he want to take the speck out of S's eye? It seems fair to say that it's because P is trying to help S. He's not doing it out of some malicious intent, or to give himself a position of superiority over his brother, S. He sees a problem that S has, he thinks he has the solution to the problem and he is trying to help his brother S so that S would no longer have to deal with this problem any longer. What is so wrong with that? He's certainly not judging S falsely as he really does have a speck in his eye. And he's trying to be helpful by taking care of someone's problem. So why does Jesus take such issue with this?

I think that some of it can be because we need to take care of ourselves first. That sounds selfish, and so much of the New Testament is filled with putting the needs of others before the needs of yourself. But this isn't quite the same thing. This isn't worrying about your own needs just for the sake of it and being selfish, this is about taking care of your own problems and your own shortcomings so that you can THEN go and take care of the needs of others. So that you can see clearly what you are doing, and that you can do the MOST good for other people once you have no longer have your own issues holding you back. Just like Jesus says in verse 5 "5You 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." He doesn't say to NOT remove the speck from your brother's eye, that is not the issue. You should certainly try to help to remove the problems of your brother. But, you can not do this until you have taken care of your own mess first...and once you have, by all means go and help your brother.

So why not do it in the opposite order? Why not take care of your brother's problems first, and then care of your own? Why not even do them simultaneously? Surely we can't be expected to be perfect before we can even think about helping others. Well no, of course not. But we need to take care of the problems that we know of personally, and at least address them before we try to take care of the problems that others have. We just can't be as effective if we're still dealing with our own mess while trying to help others take care of theirs. We need to get to a point where we can be effective first.

You ever ride in an airplane? You know the safety spiel at the start? The part where it talks about oxygen masks coming out of the ceiling. It specifically says that if you have a small child with you or someone who would need help putting their mask on to put YOUR mask on first and THEN help them with theirs. As a parent, this seems counter-intuitive at first glance. I want the safety of my child to be taken of first and foremost. I would easily sacrifice my own safety and everything else to guarantee Brooke's. But putting her oxygen mask doesn't guarantee her safety. And if somewhere were to happen where I would become incapacitated between the time of putting the mask on her first and putting my mask on second, she would certainly still be in big trouble.

The oxygen mask isn't the end to the problem...we still need to survive. The oxygen mask is just the first step. It's not solving all the problems and issues with the situation. To say that we shouldn't help our brother until ALL of our problems are dealt with would be like saying that I should put my mask on and then wait until the plane has landed safely and we're back on solid ground away from danger before worrying about helping Brooke with her mask. There is a sense of urgency here that using that logic does not address. She needs her oxygen mask, NOW. But I need mine on first, so that I can be capable of helping with OTHER problems that can arise from this situation too. Your brother does very much need that spec removed from his eye, but you need the plank removed first because the spec is by no means the end of the problems that S & P are facing together.

Putting Brooke's oxygen mask on first does not guarantee her safety, just as pulling the spec out of S's eye first does not guarantee his healthy spiritual growth and well being. That is the end result that P wants. He wants his brother to not be hindered. He wants to help. And he should, he just needs to do it the right way so that he's not knocked out of the show after the first small part of removing the spec. Who knows what kinds of problems are going to come knocking next?

Had I just put sunscreen on myself first, I wouldn't have slathered Brooke in it and then rushed out the door forgetting to take care of myself as well. And I wouldn't have this freaking sunburn.