1 Corinthians 12:12-31
12 For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all given one Spirit to drink. 14 Indeed, the body is not one part but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” it is not for that reason any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” it is not for that reason any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God has arranged each one of the parts in the body just as he wanted. 19 And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that are weaker are indispensable. 23 And those parts of the body that we consider less honorable, we clothe these with greater honor, and our unrespectable parts are treated with greater respect, 24 which our respectable parts do not need. Instead, God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, 25 so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other. 26 So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all do miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in other tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But desire the greater gifts. And I will show you an even better way. — 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Importance of Being Significant
by Elizabeth Brown
At this time of my life, I am restless. I am curious about the meaning of life. I’m drawn to self-examination. I want to worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23). To this end, I started taking some spiritual formation classes. A close friend of mine said, “I wish I wanted to do something like that.” I thought I had misunderstood her, thinking she had said she wished she had the time to take classes. No, she explained, she wished she had the desire. I wondered why. She seemed fulfilled in the life and ministries she was a part of. Somehow, she considered my current endeavor more noble than her own.
I think we are all like that at times: unsatisfied with how we contribute to our church community. We assign culturally-influenced value to activities, ministries, or vocations, failing to recognize that God created our affinities and talents to be used in cooperation. Perhaps we confuse authority for value.
The church in Corinth was no different. Paul addressed this divisive thinking in his first letter to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, he laid the foundational truth that each of us has a place in the Christian community. We are all baptized into the faith through the Holy Spirit, and we all hold equal value in the sight of God. Each person’s unique gifting is crucial to the beauty and movement of the body of Christ.
In verses 14-19, Paul uses the metaphor of the human body. At its healthiest, the body functions only because of the cooperation of various small and large parts. Paul uses the absurd image of an unbalanced body being just an eye, or just an ear. He exposes our discontent with our natural abilities. We envy our friends’ passions and gifts. We want to be as involved and indispensible as others whom we admire. Envy is pretty ugly. Even uglier is the underlying cause of this envy: shame. Because of our society’s hierarchical structures within and without the church, we often view ourselves as “not enough.”
Paul helps us understand that we each serve a highly significant function in our community. No one sees the world exactly like you or I do. The world needs our perspectives. God “made our bodies with many parts, and he has put each part just where he wants it” (v 18). More than that, I believe God likes where He has put us. We are lovely in His body, and we are the most lovely when we accept our own personalities and talents. We do not need to frantically search for ministry opportunities. It is when we are quiet before the Lord that He reveals our true selves to us, opening doors for us to live out our deepest longings.
- Take some time to just be. Sit in silence for 10 minutes. Become comfortable with your breathing. You are who God made you to be. Allow yourself to find joy in this.
- Engage wholeheartedly with your community—individually or in ministry settings. We often let shame and feelings of worthlessness inhibit us. Try to be vulnerable, fully yourself, in each interaction.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.