Two Sundays ago I had the privilege of preaching at my home church, Covenant Life. We’re in the middle of a series on 1 Corinthians and I spoke from 1 Cor. 12:12-31. Paul has been answering the Corinthians’ questions about who is “really” spiritual. They were under the mistaken assumption that certain gifts, like tongues, were a sign of true spirituality. Their attitude was dividing the church – the exact opposite of the unity the Spirit wants to bring. Paul presses his point home by using the analogy of the human body.
In preparing for the message, I did a little research on the body and learned some amazing facts. Our liver performs over 500 functions. I’m not sure I can name one. Our ears can identify hundreds of thousands of different sounds. Our heart beats about 100,000 times a day without our even thinking about it. The big toe is actually one of the most important parts of our body, balancing our skeleton and enabling us to move forward. Without it, we’d simply fall over.
Often, the parts of our bodies we give the least thought to are among the most important. Paul probably didn’t have all these details, but he obviously had this in mind when he wrote this passage. Rather than exalting our gifts or minimizing them, God wants us to see that our unity in Christ is strengthened and displayed as we appreciate God’s differing gifts.
This truth definitely applies to musicians, who often compare their gifts to those those they see in others, and wind up in self-pity or self-exaltation. Paul addresses both attitudes.
He says, “If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body” (1 Cor. 12:15). It’s easy to see why a foot might envy a hand. A foot is always walked on, gets dirty, is almost always covered up, and usually stinks. Hands, on the other hand (no pun intended), are involved in everything important. They can build things, play instruments, catch a ball, and comfort a friend. When someone comes up to greet you, you don’t extend your foot. You stretch out your hand. It’s also easy to see why someone who has a “hand gift” might begin to think that their gifts are the most special, needed, and God-honoring.
But if the church is the body of Christ, we need all the parts, and they aren’t all going to look the same. Every part is needed by the others, and every part is dependent on the others. Without our feet, our hands wouldn’t get very far. But who wants a body that’s just feet?
Over the years, as I’ve held music interviews, I’ve encountered a few “eyes” who didn’t see their need for “hands” (1 Cor. 12:21). But more often, I’ve met feet who wished they were hands, and ears who wished they were eyes (1 Cor. 12:16). Choir vocalists that wanted to be soloists. Small group guitarists who wanted to be Sunday morning instrumentalists. Non-rhythmical musicians who wanted to be drummers. Non-musicians who wanted to be on the team.
Leaders can have a hard time telling someone they can’t serve in the way they want to serve. But we shouldn’t hesitate to help someone know what part of the body they actually are. If someone isn’t a hand or an eye, God has made sure they’re some other part of the body. The Spirit apportions gifts to each one as he wills (1 Cor. 12:21).
That doesn’t mean people can’t grow in their gifts, or that they can’t serve in a position until someone else more gifted comes along. But as a leader I want to do everything I can to help people identify where God has gifted them so the whole body will be built up and better served.
I also want to be content to be the body part God has made me, and recognize my need for the other gifts. If I’m more gifted to sing than to preach, I shouldn’t talk for five minutes between every song. If I don’t have a gift of administration, I should ask someone to help bring organization to the team. If I’m not the most creative musician, I should make sure there’s room for others to contribute their ideas. Even if I AM the most creative musician, I still need the gifts God has given others.
When the parts of a body don’t work together, it breeds chaos, confusion, and fruitlessness. But when each one of us is doing what we’re gifted to do, with the grace God has given us, the entire church benefits, we’re happier, and God is glorified.
So if you or someone you know feels like your gift is being the big toe, just remember you might be keeping the whole body from falling over.