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What Does ‘Blind Leading the Blind’ Mean in the Bible and in Life?

  • Joel Ryan Contributing Writer
  • Updated Jul 13, 2023
What Does ‘Blind Leading the Blind’ Mean in the Bible and in Life?

“Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. – Matthew 15:14

Jesus had some pretty harsh words for the "blind leaders" - the Pharisees and religious leaders of his day. He called them:

They weren’t the nicknames that won him many friends amongst the Pharisees, but Jesus hadn’t come to win over the leaders, kings, or religious elites of this world. He had come as the “good shepherd” who would lay down his life for his sheep so that “they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

He had come as a caring physician to heal the sick (Luke 5:31) and “to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:7)

Isaiah was speaking both literally and spiritually regarding blindness and blind leaders.

Biblical Meaning of Blind Leading the Blind

As the spiritual leaders of God’s people, the Pharisees had been charged with the study of Scripture and leading God’s people in the ways of the Lord. If anyone should have known the heart of God, been effective at communicating his guiding principles to the world, and understood the promised hope of the Messiah revealed in Scripture, it should have been the Pharisees.

Instead, this group of pious elites had devolved into a spiritually bankrupt, legalistic, and self-centered group of hypocrites, focused on power and political influence over the spiritual health and well-being of God’s people.

Always quick to call out the sin of others but mindless of the filth that festered within their own hearts, the Pharisees had lost sight of their sacred calling and wandered from the very heart of the God they thought they served (Matthew 23:13-14).

For this reason, Jesus argued that they had become the “blind leading the blind” and had made God’s people like “sheep without a shepherd.”

Jesus, however, decided to change all that.

Through his teachings, miracles, and life ministry, he threatened the authority and influence of the Pharisees by seeking to replace their flawed leadership with that of one who would lead his beloved creation back to a restored relationship with the Father, not further away.

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Man shining a flashlight into the dark

What Is Spiritual Blindness?

Today, the phrase “blind leading the blind” can refer to those who are also ill-equipped to lead or help others find freedom from sin because they themselves are too caught up in sin or are simply blind to its influence on their lives.

Jesus argued that those living in sin should first repent and allow God to change lives. When God removes the scales of sin from one’s eyes, they are able to see more clearly to identify sin in the world and help those who wander through life without a sense of direction or purpose.

Throughout Scripture, God warned his people that the cost of their rebellion, disobedience, and sin would be separation from his presence and the forfeit of his promises.

There are obvious physical consequences to sin, but the spiritual cost of disregarding God’s instructions or commands is often confusion, anxiety, frustration, a lack of discernment, an inability to identify sin in one’s life, and a failure to see God’s hand at work in the world.

Apart from God, a spiritual blindness covers the eyes of those who refuse to submit to God’s authority or allow him to transform their hearts and minds.

As Moses wrote in Deuteronomy, this spiritual blindness can be a lot like a “blind man groping in darkness in the middle of the day.” (Deuteronomy 28:29). There’s no direction or purpose to one’s life because they lack the guiding light and truth that can only come from God.

The prophet Ezekiel also wrote, “son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear.” (Ezekiel 12:1-2)

This was certainly the case with the Pharisees.

They knew the word of God but no longer understood or applied its principles to their lives. As Jeremiah wrote, “for the shepherds have become stupid and have not sought the Lord; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered. (Jeremiah 10:21)

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/francescoch

crack through cross etched on stone

Blind Leaders Lead Others Away from God

Beyond drifting away from God, because of their blindness, the Pharisees stood in the way of others coming to the Lord. And Jesus had no patience for this kind of leadership. “You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces,” he said. “You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13).

The Pharisees had become blind guides leading the people away from God. That was their first problem. The second was that they were too stubborn to change and too blind to even acknowledge where they had gone wrong. They were like shepherds who no longer fed God’s flock, only themselves (Ezekiel 34:8).

And so, the Pharisees became the first to miss out on the movement and miracles of God that they themselves had preached about for generations.

This is why God decided to insert a new shepherd, the good shepherd, in the form of his son to feed his flock and lead them back to his loving arms (Jeremiah 3:15).

Jesus Came to Open the Eyes of the Blind

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “we hope for light, but behold, darkness, for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope along the wall like blind men, we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at midday as in the twilight, among those who are vigorous we are like dead men. (Isaiah 59:9-10)

Apart from God, there is no hope, no life, and no purpose in life. We are left to grope about in the dark searching for answers.

Jesus, however, had no desire to see his creation grope about in darkness, led by those who were obstinate and equally blind. Mark’s gospel says that, he felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34)

There was a way out of the pit of sin and darkness, and that solution came in the form of Jesus Christ, God’s own son.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12) and later, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

There are several stories in the gospels of Jesus healing those who were physically blind (John 9:1-12, Mark 8:22-25). The message in all of these stories is that Christ was willing to do so, and the same is true for those who are spiritually blind and call on his name.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Serhii Ivashchuk

man with set apart shirt on with glowing cross leading blind to Jesus

Christians are Called to Be a Guide to the Blind

Jesus told his disciples, “blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them.” (Luke 10:23-24)

This parallels what Moses had written to the children of Israel as they were preparing to cross into the Promised Land. “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.” (Deuteronomy 4:9)

Jesus had every intention to free his people from the shackles of sin and spiritual blindness that ensnared them; and his message of hope and promise of deliverance are just as active and applicable today.

Those who have seen God’s hand at work in their life and had the blinders of sin removed from their own eyes begin to see the world as Christ does. They identify sin that needs to be addressed in the world and areas that God wants to heal and restore.

Their responsibility then becomes to share the good news of their deliverance and the promise of restored vision through Christ to the world.

“You are the light of the world,” Jesus said. “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

The Blind Cannot Lead the Blind

This is why Jesus blasted the Pharisees for acting like virtuous guides who had all the answers when their own sin corrupted their hearts and blinded them to the truth of God’s compassion and mercy.

In Luke 6, Jesus argued that the Pharisees were like those who were quick to point out the specks of sawdust in other people’s eyes without acknowledging or even recognizing the planks of wood in their own eyes.

Their criticism of others wasn’t just hypocritical, it was judgmental and completely ineffective.

This is where the Pharisees failed to lead by example (1 Peter 5:3). Their hypocrisy and double standards destroyed their witness and credibility amongst the people (Romans 2:21-24).

Anybody who’s ever had something stuck in their eye knows how much even the tiniest grain of sand can completely incapacitate the individual. A person with something stuck in their eye is in no position to drive, fly, or even see clearly what’s going on around them.

This is why Jesus offered a practical suggestion. “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:42)

Jesus argued that if Christians want to be an effective light to the world and help those in need, they must begin by allowing God to open their eyes and transform their hearts first.

Then they will be able to see God’s plan for the world more clearly and view others with the same love, compassion, and purpose that made Jesus Christ the good shepherd.

They won’t be the blind leading the blind, but rather, clear-minded spiritual guides who are equipped to lead others to the life and light promised in Jesus Christ.

Recommended for You:

Why Christians Stay Blind and Struggling

4 Warning Signs of a Pharisaical Heart

Judging Others: A Close Look at Matthew 7:1

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Gift Habeshaw

Joel Ryan is an author, writing professor, and contributing writer for Salem Web Network and Lifeway. When he’s not writing stories and defending biblical truth, Joel is committed to helping young men find purpose in Christ and become fearless disciples and bold leaders in their homes, in the church, and in the world.