1 Corinthians 12:20-25 – As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 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! ” On the contrary, those parts of the body that are weaker are indispensable. 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, which our respectable parts do not need. Instead, God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other.
The Commentary of the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges relates the following in regard to this passage of Scripture:
“God had specially provided against this [schisms in the body] by giving to those who occupy the less honourable and ornamental positions in society the compensation of being the most indispensable portions of it. The ‘comely parts’—the wealthy, the refined, the cultivated, the intellectual—obtain honour and respect by the very nature of their gifts. God has signified His Will that due honour and respect should be paid to those to whom it is not instinctively felt to be owing, by so ordering society that we cannot do without them. But our class distinctions and jealousies, our conflicts between capital and labour, shew how little Christians have realized this obvious truth.”
It would seem that we still need to learn these lessons today. While the passage under consideration is less about social class convention and more about differing gifts and abilities, it is true that gatherings of believers have become less community-oriented and more focused on becoming an event that one attends. Those “less honorable” parts of this community are becoming more and more marginalized to where they have less opportunity to participate meaningfully in the life of the congregation. In a sense, class distinctions among believers still persist.
Applying the metaphor that Paul provides, believing congregations represent the body of Messiah to the world. If one is not even caring for the extremities of one’s own body, how can the body function as it should? Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian body is that “the members would have the same concern for each other.” The word used here for concern is actually a Greek phrase meaning “over-anxious to the point of distraction.” It’s the same phrase used by Yeshua in the famous passage in Matthew 6 about not being anxious for tomorrow.
Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
It seems odd to apply this same type of anxiety to the care and concern believers should be exhibiting for one another. Can we truly say we are “anxious to the point of distraction” about the well-being of others and for the equality of different types of spiritual gifts that may be exhibited in our believing community?
1 Corinthians 12:18 – But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
Paul says that the differences in ability and gifting among us exist for the purpose of causing us to be a diverse community with spiritual abilities far beyond just any one of us as individuals. We need to learn to recognize the value that these diverse abilities and gifts provide the whole for the sake of honoring the God who has put the body together just the way he wants it to be.
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