Yank the Plank
March 23, 2003
I hold in my hand some espresso. I just made it. I love espresso. It’s stout, strong and it’s served in these little cups. This series, Espresso Yourself, is the same way. It’s strong, it’s stout and it’s going to be served in a little cup. We are only going to spend about four weeks on this series.
What’s so funny is that, for years, I mispronounced the name. I called it expresso. Finally, someone said, “Ed, it’s not expresso. It’s espresso.” I didn’t even know how to say it. I didn’t even know the right expression.
Expression is the reason we are doing this entire series. I’ve discovered that most people don’t really know how to “espresso” themselves. Most people don’t really know how to connect with others. Do you ever feel like you have this stuff down deep in your life that you want to say or want to communicate, but you just don’t know how to? The Bible is a book of expression. God has expressed his love to you and to me. We can look at the Bible and we can see how God expressed himself to us. Then we can take that and express ourselves to others.
A while back, my wife, Lisa, gave me a really cool gift. She bought me a pillow. On the pillow, she had something embroidered. It says, “Life is too short to drink bad coffee.” That’s true. If you are a serious coffee drinker, you know that’s true. You have got to keep coffee fresh. If it’s not fresh, it’s horrible. If it sits around for a while it becomes stale. You don’t want it. That’s why companies like Starbucks have the “one-hour” rule. Starbucks will brew a whole pot of coffee and after one hour, they just toss it. I think if the reality of our lives was revealed, we would see that a lot of us here are living bitter and stale lives. A lot of us here are not living caffeinated lives. Our lives are decaf. They don’t have any motion. They don’t have any direction. It goes back to expression.
Jesus talked a lot about bitterness. He talked a lot about poor espresso. For example, he said these words in Matthew 7: “Stop judging others and you will not be judged. For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged. Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a plank in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of the speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the plank in your own eye? Hypocrite. First get rid of the plank in your own eye and then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
Over the next several minutes, I want to talk to you about a sin that I am really good at. I’m going to talk to you about something that I know how to do that is not very good. What’s the sin? Judging others. What’s the sin? Being consumed with criticism. At this point, I know what you are thinking. Some of you are thinking, “Oh, man, I am going to rush out and buy a CD of this talk, because I hear you can buy same-day messages. I’m going to give this message to my father, to my friend, and to my neighbor. I am going to put it in my neighbor’s mailbox. It will just show up there. That’s what I am going to do. Oh, does she need to hear this one! Wow! I can’t wait. I’m going to take notes for someone else.”
That’s tempting. It’s tempting for you and it’s tempting for me. That’s great to think about others, but the most important person to think about is you. Let’s think about ourselves right now, because we are the ones who need to hear this. In Matthew 7, Jesus was talking to a bunch of scribes and Pharisees, a bunch of legalistic people, and a bunch of people who had bitter espresso all over their lives. Let me just boil it down to where we can all understand it. Here is today’s sermon in a sentence. Matthew 7:5 says, “Get rid of the plank from your own eye.” That’s the sermon in a sentence. “Get rid of the plank in your own eye.” Jesus said we have a plank in our eyes. We have some eye wood. Here is the sermon in a sentence. Are you ready? You are going to repeat it with me. It’s time for us to yank the plank. Let’s say it together… 1-2-3… yank the plank. We are talking about taking the plank in our own eye and yanking it so we can be freed up to live the kind of life that Christ wants — the kind of life that is truly about espresso — real, good, and rich espresso.
Matthew 7:1 has a warning label on it. It’s one of the most misunderstood verses in the entire Bible. People take it out of context. Most people are clueless about this verse. Let me do a quick sidebar and talk to you about Matthew 7:1. Jesus said, “Stop judging others and you will not be judged.” The word “judging” is the Greek term “kreno.” It means to condemn, to damn, or to try someone in the courtroom of your consciousness. That’s what it means to judge someone. Jesus is not saying, not alluding to the fact, that we should not take a moral stand. Jesus is not saying we should not believe in truth or absolutes. He is not saying that we should not give someone constructive criticism. He is not saying we should never critique someone. No. Later on in the passage, Jesus talks about false teachers. How do we recognize false teachers? By discernment and by constructively criticizing.
In Matthew 18, Jesus tells us how to confront someone lovingly, compellingly, and creatively. So, he is not driving at that constructive criticism stuff. People take this out of context, and here is how they do it. Let’s say you work with someone, and you take this guy out to lunch. Let’s say you are a Christian and this guy isn’t. This guy begins to tell you about his life. He goes, “You know what? I’m bailing out on my wife and my kids. I’m not in touch with my inner child. I’m not really self-actualized. She’s holding me back. I’m out.”
As a Christian, you say, “I think you are going to mess up here. I don’t see any rationale for your decision. Do you realize the collateral damage that is going to take place?”
But then this non-Christian looks at you and says, “Aren’t you a Christian? Don’t you call yourself a believer? Didn’t Jesus say stop judging others or you will be judged? Aren’t you being intolerant of me?”
That’s bogus. That’s ludicrous. Jesus never said that. The Bible never said that. What’s so hilarious is that our culture has taken a great word, an awesome word — tolerance — and has decaffeinated the word. Tolerance, in its true original form, is a caffeinated term. Do you know what tolerance means? In its original form, tolerance means that I will respect you and accept you even though your beliefs are different from mine. That’s good. That’s a God thing. The new tolerance, though, in its politically correct mumbo jumbo, says, “Let’s decaffeinate the word. Let’s take it and strip it down.” The new tolerance says that not only must I accept you and respect you because your beliefs are different, but now I’ve got to applaud you, embrace you, and accept what you believe as truth.
Do you know what? The new tolerance says, “What is truth? Truth is one thing to me and one thing to you. As long as you don’t hurt anybody, then everything is hunky-dory.” That dog won’t hunt. If someone has that ideology, it’s a self-refuting worldview. The next time someone tries to take Matthew 7 out of context and toss it your way, the next time someone tries to tell you that you are being intolerant, say, “Wait a minute. You are being intolerant by your attitude toward me.” The Bible is a book of truth. The Bible says there is absolute truth. We must stand and own absolute truth. The politically correct movement says, “No, there is no such thing as absolute truth. Everything is relative. What’s real for me is real for me, and what’s real for you is real for you. That’s the way it is.” Yet, if you don’t accept the absolute belief in relativism, the world says, you are being intolerant. You see? It’s a self-refuting worldview. Now, I’m glad I got that out of the way because we can get back to where we are going in Matthew 7.
Let’s talk about the subject matter that is on the table. Let’s talk about the stuff in the cup. Let’s talk about espresso. Let’s talk about bitterness. Let’s talk about criticism. Why was Jesus so into nailing a critical spirit? Why was he so white-hot, so passionate, about pulling out the plank? Why did Jesus just nail the Scribes and Pharisees between the eyes with their own eye wood? I’ll tell you why. A critical spirit, number one, is cold-blooded. I just read it for you. The critical spirit is cold-blooded. I don’t know about you, but let me just tell you how I criticize. You probably don’t criticize this way, but I do. I criticize people who criticize me. Maybe you are not like that. This is just me talking to a couple of friends. If someone is critical of me, or if someone puts me in the cross hairs of criticism, then I criticize them back. Many times, I don’t do it verbally, but I do it in the courtroom of my consciousness. I will damn you. I will condemn you. I’ll put you away on death row, baby. I know how to do it. Criticism is cold-blooded. We like to criticize people who criticize us.
Here is something else about me. I tend to be critical of my peers. Surely, you are not. I’ve discovered that homemakers are not usually critical of brain surgeons. Brain surgeons are not usually critical of police officers. Teachers are not usually critical of pastors. See, pastors are usually critical of other pastors. Homemakers are usually critical of other homemakers. Real estate agents are usually critical of other real estate agents, and so forth and so on. “You have something I don’t have. You have an unfair advantage. You have been elevated to that position. I really deserve that. So, I’m just going to tear you down. Because when I tear you down, when I criticize you, it makes me look better.”
Maybe one or two people know what I am talking about. Do you ever really wonder sometimes what the biggest plank in your life is? Do you ever ask yourself, “What is that plank, that thing, that area that trips me up the most? What is it?” I sometimes wonder that in my life. Let me tell you how to discover what it is. When you criticize someone else, discover what you are actually tearing apart in that other person’s life. Because whatever you are criticizing in the other person’s life is what you deal with the most in your own life. I have the uncanny ability to point out the sin, the junk, in other people’s lives that I deal with the most. It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? It’s very convicting. Jesus said, “Don’t criticize.” Criticism is cold-blooded.
Let’s go back to the text, Matthew 7:1. Jesus said, “Stop judging others.” Do you know what “stop” means here in the original language? “Stop” means stop. Am I going too fast? As a parent, your kid is doing something wrong, what do you say? Do you say, “Let me go ahead and discuss this with you? What do you think about what you are doing?” No. You say, “Stop.” Stop means stop. Read my lips. Stop. If you know anything about the original language, then you know this word “stop” is in the present-active-imperative. It’s in the present tense. It means we should stop now. We should start right now to say, “Stop. I’m going to stop today.” Make the decision everyday, “I’m not going to go there.” It’s in the active voice. Take a wild guess what the subject is. It’s not your father. It’s not your neighbor. It’s not your classmate. It’s you and me. It’s Ed Young. I’m the subject. It’s in the imperative. It’s not optional. Jesus was taking the role of a commander here. It’s emphatic. There’s no multiple choice here. It’s just your deal and mine.
Look at Verses 4 and 5, Jesus said, “How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log…” It might say in your translation the plank. (In the original language, the word log or plank is a picture of a crossbeam that held up an entire structure.) Do you see the humor there? Jesus loved to use humor. A crossbeam. Some of us have this crossbeam of negativity that holds up the entire structure of our lives. We are just consumed by criticism. We say, “Let me help you get rid of the speck.” Do you see the humor? “Oh, look you have got some sawdust in your contact lens, but I’ve got a Sequoia tree in my eyes.” “You’re very prideful and you are an egomaniac. You are full of lust and greed and look at all the stuff. Can you believe that?”
We like those specks, don’t we? There are a lot of hunters here in Texas. Thousands upon thousands of hunters converge on Outdoor World. We talk about deer season. We talk about dove season. We talk about all the different seasons. Speck hunting is a year round deal, because we like to put specks in the crosshairs of our criticism.
“Oh there’s a speck there. There’s another one. This is cool. Oh, yes, speck hunting. I’m going to hunt you and you. I’ll pick those specks out.”
God says, “Well, Ed, how about the crossbeam in your face? How about the sequoia tree in your eye?”
“Well, Lord, forget that. Just look at the speck in my wife’s eye, or my co-worker’s eye or my friend’s eye.”
Jesus said that criticism is cold-blooded. It shouldn’t be. Then he says the first word in verse 5, “Hypocrite.” You talk about in-your-face? Jesus said that if you are critical, if you are consumed by criticism, then you are a hypocrite.
I meet a lot of people. They come up to me and they will ask, “You’re a pastor, right?”
“What church are you pastor of?”
“Really? You know, I’ve not been to church in like thirteen years. Pastor, I’ll just go ahead and be honest with you, man. You know why?”
“Churches are full of hypocrites. I just don’t go anymore, because they are full of hypocrites. I just don’t go. There’s a hypocrite here and a hypocrite there. Church is full of hypocrites.”
I want everybody here to raise your hand for a second. Look around. Every hand that is raised is representative of a hypocrite. I’m a hypocrite and so are you. Let’s just call it how it is, all right? We are all hypocrites. Do you know what the word “hypocrite” means? Hypocrite means assuming a role that is not yours to assume. Have you ever done that? I have. I did a couple of days ago. When we are hypocrites, what do we do? We usurp God. Here’s the throne. [Ed places his stool in the middle of the stage to represent God’s central rule in our lives. During the next few sentences, Ed acts as though he is removing God from the stool and then sits on the “throne” himself.] God should rule and reign over our lives. We say, “God, you know, I’m going to go ahead and take your position now. I’m going to sovereignly rule over the universe called “me.” I’ll call the shots. In fact, God, I’m going to take out my plank, and I’m going to put people in the crosshairs of my criticism. I’m going to take your place. You sit over there, God, and I’m going to judge others. I’m going to judge you. You criticize me. You’re my peer. So, I’m going to judge, judge, judge, and criticize you. That’s what I’m going to do.”
We are being hypocritical when we are critical. We are assuming a role that is not ours to assume. Sadly, if you look at many churches, you will see that they have become communities of criticism rather than communities of compassion. One of the things I love about Fellowship is that we have a hunk of people who are compassionate here. People tell me that all the time. I’ve seen it in our 13-year history. We accept others. We respect you without having to approve of your behavior. If you think about it, that’s what God does in my life. He accepts me. He respects me. He doesn’t approve of everything I do, but he accepts me and loves me. We are the same way at Fellowship, because God is that way.
So often, though, Christians can fall into the trap of criticizing others under the cloak of Christian concern.
“Let’s pray for Sally. She has really messed up again in the dating world. Let’s say a prayer for her right now. Lord, we pray for Sally. She has messed up in another dating relationship. I can’t believe what she has done to this guy. Can you believe it, Lord? She’s done it again.” Then we try to defend ourselves by saying, “Oh, but I’m being spiritual.” Oh, really?
Let me move on. It’s getting very convicting here. Criticism is cold-blooded, number one.
Number two, not only is criticism cold-blooded, but criticism is also a highly infectious disease. Remember the series I concluded several weeks ago called CHARACTER TOUR? I talked about great characters with great character? We talked about Joshua and Caleb. We said Joshua and Caleb were visionary people. We said they went out and were ready to claim God’s real estate that he had given to the children of Israel. When they came back and told the Israelites that it was time to claim the land, what did the Israelites do? They put them in the crosshairs of criticism. They shot them down. The Bible says that the people wanted to kneecap them. They wanted to take them out. The Bible says that negativity spread around the entire encampment. That’s the way criticism is. I’m sly. I know how to criticize. Sometimes I’ll throw out criticism like some bait. I’ll put out some feelers to see if other people will pick it up. If you pick it up, well, I like you. Then, you become critical and you catch the disease. In turn, I’ll catch it again, and we spread it around. It’s a highly infectious disease.
In fact, “Owen are you back there?” Just a minute. I want to get something. Where’s my yo-yo? Where is it? [Ed runs back stage and returns playing with a yo-yo.]
Criticism is just like a yo-yo, the Bible says. Matthew 7:2 says, “For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged.”
I throw criticism out and it comes back. And it hurts. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive you your sins.” So, if I criticize you, abuse you, and critique you, then that same measure is coming back on me. It’s the yo-yo effect. So, if you want to get what you are giving, go ahead and give it. Bring it on. But, you do not want to feel the yo-yo hit you. I don’t want to feel it either. That’s why Jesus said that criticism is a highly infectious disease.
Criticism is cold-blooded. It’s a highly infectious disease. Number three, a critical spirit is also blinding. I have already shown you this. It’s just blinding. When I am critical, and when I am consumed by criticism, I can’t really see the way God sees. I can’t really see you. I can’t understand that you matter to God. I can’t really do that. Next weekend, I am talking about rudeness. Sixty-nine percent of Americans say that rudeness is a major problem. We exude rude, don’t we? Am I talking about saying, “Thank you, yes ma’am, and yes sir?” Of course. But, I will also be talking about something even deeper than that. Rudeness is on a rampage, and we are going to see how to root out rudeness. Rudeness, as well as a critical spirit, can blind us.
Once we allow Jesus Christ to yank the plank out of our lives, once we allow him to take it out, two things happen. Number one — we can see the mercy of God. We can see the mercy of God. We have a vertical thing going on. We see the mercy of God.
What is the mercy of God? The mercy of God is simply not getting what we deserve. That’s mercy. It’s not getting what we deserve. What do we deserve? The Bible says we deserve hell. We deserve a Christ-less eternity. Does God hurl people to hell? No. We make that choice. We are big boys and girls. If we remove the plank, and if we allow Jesus to yank the plank, then we see clearly the mercies of God.
Matthew 5:7 says, “Blessed are the merciful.” That means those who are receiving it and giving it. The verse continues, “For they shall be shown mercy.” I need mercy. We all need it. That’s the Gospel. The Gospel is mercy. It’s not getting something we deserve. The Gospel simply means Good News. So, are we consumed by criticism or are we giving good news? Once the plank is yanked, I see the mercy of God.
Then, number two — I can extend the mercy of God. I love this one. I was blind. Now that the plank has been yanked, I can see the mercy of God, vertically. I’m not getting what I deserve. Because I am not getting what I deserve from God, I have the power, when I communicate to others and when I espresso myself to others, to not give them what they deserve. I give them what God has given me. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it’s called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Talk to people. Just do a quick interview.
Say, “Tell me some things in your life that have changed the trajectory of your life.”
They will talk about words. They will talk about things people have written down. They will talk about events. They will talk about gifts. They will talk about quality time that people spent with them and they will say, “Those actions, those acts of mercy, changed my life.”
Once the plank is yanked, we have the opportunity to see the mercy of God – not getting what we deserve. In turn, we can give that mercy to others. We can use mercy to affirm and encourage our spouse, our children, our parents, others we come into contact with, and even those in authority over us. We have an opportunity to put wind in their sails. Encouragement can be like food. We need food to survive, to live. It nourishes us. Encouragement and being positive and seeing the best in others does the same thing. Even the secular world understands it.
Dr. David H. Fink, a psychiatrist for the Veterans Administration wrote an article where he published the results of 10,000 case studies on nervous tension. He came to the conclusion that there was one common trait among all people who suffered from severe tension. He says, “They were habitual fault finders. A critical spirit is a prelude to being mentally imbalanced.” Do you want to sign up for being mentally imbalanced? I don’t. Do you want to sign up for nervous tension? I don’t. Allow Jesus Christ to yank the plank.
Think about this vertical part. We see the mercy of God. We don’t get what we deserve. We don’t get it. That’s mercy. Because we are vertically right, then horizontally, as we relate to others, we can be right as well. We can express mercy to others. That vertical and horizontal mercy form the cross. The cross is the ultimate symbol, act and form of expression. Vertical, horizontal, it’s all about the mercy of God.
So as you look at your life ask yourself if you are living a caffeinated life. Are you truly expressing yourself the way Christ desires? If you are, then you are all about real espresso.