by Tad Lindley
My old friend, Johnny Paul, passed away recently. When I got the news immediately my mind went to the qasgiq files, in particular, File #73: Johnny Paul’s Toothpick. The way I remember it, I was already in the hot room at Tim’s and I heard someone else enter the porch. In short order I see a head wrapped in a white towel pop through the door and protruding out of the mouth an enormous stick (I’m the first guy to chew on a splinter of wood in the steambath, but this was outrageous), and behind the stick danced the gleaming eyes of Johnny Paul. I was not deep into the Bible at that point in life, but I knew enough that my mind quickly made the jump from Johnny Paul’s toothpick to Matthew 7.
Toothpick in the eye
Now in Matthew 7, Jesus is preaching and the toothpick is not in someone’s mouth where it is supposed to be, it is in their eye! Look at it right here: “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use. Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye?Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5 CSB)
Getting down where we live
Jesus was getting right down where we live. He was telling the people, “Look, you’re real good at pinpointing other people’s problems and other people’s issues.” That is the splinter that we notice in someone else’s eye. He goes on about how we aren’t afraid to confront their issues, but we act as if we ourselves are perfect, we don’t even notice that where their problem is the size of a splinter, ours is a massive piece of wood. Jesus was touching on this spiritual truth: if we want to know what is wrong with us, just look around and see what bothers us about other people.
Let me put flesh and bones on the toothpick
Think for a moment of someone who irritates you. Last night at bingo maybe you were telling about someone who neglects their kids real bad, never mind you had no idea where yours were. Maybe it’s someone who boasts a lot and is proud in ways they shouldn’t be. Maybe they always like to be the center of attention and it bothers you. Guess what, if you see the speck in their eye, there is a good chance that if you inspect yourself in the mirror of prayer and the reflection of reality you will find out that in fact you have that same problem yourself.
If stingy people bother you, it might be time for you to look in the mirror of life and see if you are as generous and giving as you think you are. If you find yourself constantly surrounded by people that are jerks, you might want to find someone who you trust to tell you the truth, and say to them, “Tell me the truth, do people perceive me as being a jerk?”
The real reason you don’t like some people
If you take Matthew 7:1-5 to heart, you will learn a lot about yourself. You will understand that the number one reason you don’t like some people is that they remind you too much of yourself. If you are tough enough to receive that truth, and you will repent of your own faults and issues you will find two things come to pass, 1) you will find that it becomes much easier to love the people around you; you will quit noticing their problems, and 2) you will become a better person as you clean up your own life instead of grumbling about how they need to fix theirs!
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.