Why do you concentrate on the sawdust in your brother’s eye, and pay no mind to the two-by-four in your own eye? How can you possibly say to him “let me help you with that dust in your eye,” when all the while you’ve got that two-by-four sticking out of your own? Hypocrite! First get that two-by-four out of your own eye; only then can you see to help your brother with the dust in his.
(my own paraphrase of Matt. 7:3-5)
I paraphrased this passage because in the usual translations, I think we often miss just how funny it probably was at the time. This is by no means the only time, even in the Sermon on the Mount, that Jesus resorted to absurd language to make his point. I imagine that his hearers were cracking up at this, as they certainly were when he mocked the pompous religious in Matt. 6:5 as well. It’s worth our while to remember Jesus wasn’t the buttoned-down killjoy that some make him out to be (remember he was also criticized for being a party animal in Luke 7:34).
Of course the illustration of the sawdust and the two-by-four is also exactly the lesson we’ve all known it to be … that we should look to our own shortcomings before getting in the face of others about theirs. That’s true, it’s important, and it’s far too frequently honored only in the breach. But maybe these two things are related: if we learn to have a healthy dose of humor in looking at our own copious stupidity, maybe we’ll also do better at the humility it takes to address the wood in our own eyes. I hope so.