Taking the Plank Out of Your Own Eye

When you’re hottest about someone else’s faults, think about your own.

Genesis 28:6-9 (ESV)

Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women,” and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham's son, the sister of Nebaioth.

Esau should still be seething mad. But instead of pursuing Jacob to kill him like he said he would, he has an attitude adjustment and starts trying to please his parents. What happened?

The text tells us that he overheard Isaac tell Jacob, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women.” That must have been a real wake-up call.

Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father. He now realizes how his Canaanite wives made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah. We don’t know if they made life bitter for him too, but when he hears his father make darn sure that doesn’t happen again with Jacob, he takes it to heart.

Also, Esau may have just learned of the LORD’s prophesy about him and Jacob. Seems like everything in this household gets overheard and his parents may have just had some loud conversations about that prophesy. By now, they should have told him anyway.

In any case, Esau has a real change of attitude and it’s to his credit.

This will help us make sense out of some events to come.

Don’t miss how extraordinary this is. Esau had just been cheated. He has every right to be furious. Yet, he saw his own errors and worked on them – instead of working on getting even.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? … You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. – Matthew 7:3, 5 (ESV)

There’s an advanced principle here – the times when you’re hottest about someone else’s faults are great times to work on your own. You’re attuned to why the issue is worth working on, even if your focus is on someone else. With your blood already up, all you need is a little redirection.

But notice that Jesus made a second point – removing the plank from your own eye helps you see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. So, even if you haven’t let go of the objective of fixing someone else’s fault, you still need to fix yours first. That will make you a better fixer.

It seems like almost every lesson in the Bible eventually gets around to teaching humility.

That must be important.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:


Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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