From the Archives: When Feet Want to be Hands

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What do you do as a leader when someone wants to play a specific role on your music team but is better fit for something else? What do you do as a member if that’s you?

A number of years ago I preached a message 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.

For more thoughts on helping people find the right place to serve check out When the Soloist is out of Tune and Quality or Quantity on the Worship Team?

[Originally posted Sept. 2007]

4 Responses to From the Archives: When Feet Want to be Hands

  1. Jim Pemberton December 12, 2012 at 5:21 PM #

    I’m a piddler. That means I’m not fantastically gifted in any one thing, but fairly gifted in many things. So trying to focus on just one thing doesn’t seem to work out very well. Additionally, some of the things I’m gifted in don’t fit into the ministry paradigm in my church. For example, I’m gifted in keyboard improvisation, but not sight reading. My church music program is set up to use orchestrations that require the pianist to play precisely what’s written. That rules me out. So I rarely have the opportunity to use that gift, and since others are seen to be the primary keyboardists, they are typically used when improv is required.

    That’s just one example. So basically, if it’s teaching a class, preaching, performing technical functions, using musical abilities, etc, I’m available but rarely used for more than just to be part of the crowd.

    This used to bother me. I wanted to minister more. I felt God had given me a heart to serve him, and I still feel that way. But if God doesn’t want me to use what he has given me to do more than he wants me to do, that’s his prerogative. I don’t want to sound passive-aggressive by saying this, but I’m fairly insignificant in ministry and that’s where God wants me. He’ll use me when and how he wants to. I just need to stay available. Maybe I’m more significant than that, but that knowledge isn’t available to me. I just need to trust God to use me for his purposes and that’s all.

  2. Charlotte Ahrens December 17, 2012 at 9:28 PM #

    No one is insignificant in Gods eyes and if you pray and listen he will direct your steps and he will bless you with occurences some small and others breath-taking that will confirm this is the deepest sense.
    I just finished reading The Air I Breathe by Louie Giglio and you can get it quick from cbd. I recommend it highly- it’s about worship and very uplifting and enlightening.
    God Bless you, i will keep you in my prayers.

  3. leahadassah February 20, 2013 at 4:24 PM #

    Interesting article in that it addresses many issues; three of which are, Leadership, egos, and gifts.

    It is good that it speaks loudly to leaders who often forget the distinction between “leader and boss.”

    It is also good that people learn to appreciate their own
    gift[s] – that way they won’t have to be jealous of another and/or envious of another’s gift or gifts, especially since God has freely given all of us the gift [GRACE].

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