Envy, Pride, and Spiritual Gifts (2)
In the previous article we began looking at a problem in the local church when it comes to the presence and operation of spiritual gifts. The difficulty emerges when some, who don’t know what their spiritual gift is or don’t like the one they have, feel useless and say, “You don’t need me,” and others, who take pride in their gift, feel self-sufficient and say, “I don’t need you.” When this happens, the body suffers, which is to say, the church suffers.
Here is Paul’s remedy. He writes in 1 Corinthians 12:14-16 – “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 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. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.”
From this we see that he first describes those who have feelings of uselessness and ineffectiveness.
What’s Paul saying? I think what he means is that there are some in the local church who believe that if they aren’t like someone else, they are of no benefit or use. They look at who they are and how they have been gifted, then turn to look at how God has gifted others, and then conclude: “Because I’m not like him, I’m useless. Because I’m not like her, I’m of no benefit to anyone.”
Again, think of the local church as if it were a body. In that body, those with “foot” gifts or “ear” gifts or “knee cap” gifts look at those with “hand” gifts and “eye” gifts and say, “I’m not like that. I don’t have those gifts and talents and skills. I can’t function in the church like the others do. I can’t do what the “hands” and “eyes” do, so I guess I’m not of any benefit to anyone at all. I might as well not be a part of the body at all. Go ahead and amputate me!”
So what’s the medicine Paul prescribes to heal the body of this sort of spiritual disease? What does he recommend?
(1) The first thing he does is to challenge head on the beliefs of those who are convinced they are useless and serve no good or beneficial function in the body, in the church. Look at v. 17 – “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?”
His point is that if God had made everyone the same, the body might qualify to appear in a carnival freak show, but it wouldn’t function very well. You who have “ear” gifts, if God had given you “eye” gifts, how would the body hear anything? You might have 20-20 or x-ray vision, but you’d be deaf! Or again, you who have “nose” gifts, if God had given you “ear” gifts, how would the body smell anything?
Now look closely at vv. 19-20 – “If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”
Paul’s point is that if everyone in the body were the same, there would be no body. There’d just be one huge eye or one massive hand. So, as he says at the end of both v. 15 and v. 16, just because you aren’t like everyone else in this church doesn’t make you any less a part of the body or any less essential or useful.
Just because you compare yourself with others and don’t like what you see or become envious of what they are or resentful of what you are, that doesn’t make you any less a vital and important part of the body of Christ.
In the same way that the foot or ear or nose contributes to the health of the physical body, so likewise each of you, regardless of where you fit in or what role you play or how you minister, your presence is absolutely essential to the body of Christ.
Paul’s point, then, is that if you got your way there wouldn’t even be a body! For there to be a body there must be a diversity of members, each with its own place and part and role to play. That’s what he has in mind in vv. 14, 19-20.
We’ll take up Paul’s second response in the concluding article tomorrow.