The unveiling of the plank in the eye

Survival has been the aim of humanity, ever since creation. Strangely it is by choice that humans pursue routes toward demise, rather than towards survival. Jesus said a person loses life when aiming at saving the same life and yet gains life when losing physical life for Jesus’ sake.

As physical as Jesus was, He stated that He was the resurrection and the life to anyone believing in Him (John 11:25). Just by believing in Jesus, one attains the power that Jesus demonstrated; including the resurrection. Human life is sustained by two dichotomies—the spirit and the physical.

The spiritual component motivates the business of livingness, while the physical component attracts activities leading to death. For instance, the physical body dislikes hard work, yet it is through hard work that a person obtains livingness. The spiritual urge to work hard enhances survival.

“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other so you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:17-18 NIV).

But why are physical desires described as sinful nature? The sinful nature was adopted by Adam, after taking the wrong fruit. Nothing appears wrong with the physical body, generating the appetite for sex and being envious, for instance. The sinful nature focuses on the self, as impossible to think of anything else ahead of the self. This is how sinful nature was crafted in humanity.

The condition of sinful nature has now been defeated, through Jesus. The most important reality is to acknowledge one’s helplessness, to attain Jesus’ help out of a sinful condition. There are two Biblical examples, showing how to access the redemptive abilities of Jesus.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him; “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God?” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43 NIV).

Observed in the above passage is the soul of one of the criminals admitted into paradise. But why didn’t the other Criminal also access paradise? The two were compatriots in criminal activities. Yet the other criminal could not access the paradise, which his friend managed to easily access. The aim of every Christian is to be in Paradise, accessed by a sinful criminal.

The mocking criminal desired survival, but he could not access the paradise as was accessed by his friend. Pride could not allow him to change his mind. His mockery came from a sense of self-dependence. He could not submit to a person he mocked. In other words, he saw Jesus as unwise. Paradise is not easily accessible to proud people.

This provides clear proof that nothing is complicated about attaining salvation, although the sinful nature is too overwhelming to humanity. Humans are redeemable only by accepting Jesus as their personal saviour. At the start of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus alluded to the conditions of salvation.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:3-9 NIV).

The people described are not, necessarily Church goers or Bible readers. While true that such people could be found in Christianity, these can also be found among drunkards or those committing other awful sins. God is aware of the overwhelming sinful nature. Some people might display the above attributes, but without ever going to Church.

A person who is pure in heart is not, necessarily, sinless, but does not pretend to be sinless. He would be willing to take full responsibility for his sins. “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve” (Luke 23:41 NIV). The convicted criminal, accessing paradise was a good example of a pure heart.

This datum is true, considering that the condemned criminal unconditionally went to paradise. In the preamble of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus revealed people who would be overwhelmed by sinful nature. But those people are so humble as not to pretend to be good, whatsoever. Hence, such people have mercy on other sinners, rather than condemnatory.

A person who hungers and thirsts for righteousness is fully aware of his lack of righteousness. In their state of humility, Jesus is able to raise them up for deliverance. They realize that it is impossible to ever reach the state where they can feel satisfied for having overcome sin. Even Paul lamented his state of helplessness, in his writings.

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.

“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do, no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me.

“For in my inner being, I delight in God’s law. “But I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (Romans 7:16-25 NIV).

The apostle Paul describes the unwinnable spiritual warfare but, at the same time showing that it is winnable through Jesus. Although, even after Jesus, it is still unwinnable, as long as one maintains an attitude of self-sufficiency. The business of Jesus is to save humans but not against their will.

It is easy for Jesus to enter into one’s life, when humble enough to accept one’s state of sinfulness. It takes one with a pure heart to accept being a sinner; hence, Jesus said such people would see God. Redemption is as easy as one accepts Jesus as a personal saviour, regardless of background.

“All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). This world is full of people, who vehemently, attest to being good, thereby condemning others as sinners. The truly righteous, cannot declare being more righteous than others. This exposes the only condition, preventing humanity from accessing salvation.

“Don’t judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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? How 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? 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” (Matthew 7:1-5 NIV).

The sawdust example shows the insignificance of all sins, while the plank is the real cause for concern. The convicted criminal, at the cross with Jesus, accessed paradise because Jesus regarded his sin as sawdust. We have to zero in on the plank that makes it difficult to access paradise.

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14 NIV).

This is shocking but true. The Pharisee was truthful about his endeavour to please God. His self-exaltation is what Jesus describes as a plank in his eye. With that plank, it could not be possible for him to remove the sawdust in the tax collector’s eye. That Pharisee went home, assuming that God was impressed by his prayer. But his prayer was meaningless.

He carried indignation against sinful characters, including the sawdust in the tax collector’s eye, but was unaware of the blank in His own eye. This is profound, but being the only reason that, approximately two thousand years ago, since Jesus, humans remain in darkness. The plank is revealed as the only sin, for which Jesus came to remove (John 1:29).

The mission of Jesus is not impeded by the dust in people’s eyes, but by the plank. Those who advocated for Jesus’ killing were not those with sawdust in their eyes.   Those murderers were religious and commonly acceptable in the community. Without accepting this reality, the world remains in darkness.

The services of Jesus are not applicable to those assuming to be self-sufficient. The services of Jesus are for those aware of their helplessness and needing deliverance. This is not complicated, except for the knotty stubbornness.

While religious confidence can blind a person, like the parabolic Pharisee, wealth also plays its part in hindrance. This is when considering that young man who came to Jesus, desiring God’s Kingdom. The referred young man rejected God’s Kingdom, as a result of not wanting to part with his wealth (Matt 19:16-22).

How many people find it difficult to come out of that trap, remains known only by God. But wealth bears an obstacle to God’s Kingdom. Wealth contentment bears a similarity with the self-righteous person. This is when considering how many people claim to be blessed, when displaying wealth, at their disposal. Everything portrays a condition of pride, being the real plank in a person’s eye.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:19-24 NIV).

There is nothing wrong with money, as a medium of exchange. Money should follow those solving other people’s problems. There is a difference between dreaming about solving people’s problems and dreaming about wealth accumulation. Storing up riches appeals to greediness.

The problem lies in profit maximization. The motivating philosophy ought to be bringing happiness to others. The blinded eye cannot see the limitations of physical wealth, as compared to spiritual wealth, in eternity. The only reason a person fails to see that reality is the plank in his eye.

The person assumes that what leads to his demise, leads to eternity. Jesus said the eye is the lamp of the body. This is true, but it is misunderstood when focusing on what appeals as better, which is personal enrichment.

 Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

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