Humans, Dale Allison observes, have an “inbred proclivity to mix ignorance of themselves with arrogance toward others.” Jesus spoke of this with the image of the “speck” and the “log.” Jesus intends to be funny and serious, to jab at the ribs and wound the heart all at the same time. And what Jesus sees in the hilarious but titanic comparison of specks and logs is that we have sharp eyes for the sins of others but dulled awareness of our own.
Jesus’ solution, though, is not what some think: he does not say, “Since you’re a hypocrite, shut up!” Instead, he says, “Since you’re a hypocrite, clean up your act, then you’ll be able to help others.” In fact, there is a play on words here in Greek: in 7:3 the hypocrite “sees” (blepeis) but in 7:5 the “repented and restored-to-vision follower of Jesus” can now “clearly see” (diablepseis).
Only when the follower of Jesus can “clearly see” is she or he to be involved in the moral improvement of others. This should slow us down, but it should not stop us from the needed and useful task of being a community of moral correction.
A well-known politician, whose initials are Teddy Kennedy, was caught in this very thing recently: he had railed on one person, whose initials are Samuel Alito, only for others to discover that the reason for his railing was also found in his own life. What he will have to do, if he cares to follow Jesus, is purge that sin from his own life before he can help others purge the same sin from their lives.