Why is the foot jealous of the hand?

You’ve most likely read or heard about Paul’s illustration of how the church is the body of Christ. We are the body which, while made up of many parts, is one. While it is one, it has many members. The problem that Paul sees in the church is that some parts are thinking of themselves as lesser than others (or being made to feel as though they are less). Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:

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. 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? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

His illustration makes sense to us without any further cultural insights, but his point is even stronger when we learn how certain body parts were viewed. His example of a foot is not chosen randomly. The foot, being the very bottom of the body, was (and still is in some cultures in the Middle East) seen as dishonorable. It would be offensive to show the sole of your foot to someone if you were to travel to certain countries. So what Paul is doing here is picking the part of the body that would most likely be seen as a lesser part and using it as the example of that which should be kept in high esteem.

But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Using the foot Paul makes his point that even those that may be seen as the lowest should be valued in the church body. There is no exception. The body is one and should live with unity, not stratification or divisions.

The Unity of the Body and Diversity of Gifts

This chapter is on the diversity of the gifts the church is given by the Spirit, but while it highlights diversity, it does so in the context of the oneness of the body of Christ. Whatever differences there are, we aren’t to esteem some higher than others. We are brought together into one body that is to work together, weep together, and mourn together. These varied gifted all share the same source, the Holy Spirit, and are all to work for the common good. The one Spirit unites us, and this is a gracious work that only God can do.

Memory Verse for 1 Cor 12.12-13

Our memory verse for this week seeks to lift up and remind us of this unity that we have as a people all baptized into the same Spirit and who daily must drink of the one Spirit.

Memory Verse for 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 for iPhone

Jacques Cousteau and Spiritual Gifts

“When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.”

-Jacques Cousteau

Or tweaked for our purposes, in light of a passage like 1 Corinthians 12:

When the members of the body of Christ, because they are dearly loved by God, are given gifts of the Spirit, they have no right to keep those gifts to themselves.

We Have a Spirit Who Speaks

Paul takes chapter twelve to discuss the gifts that the Spirit of God gives to the church. But he begins by contrasting it with the idols of the Corinthians’ old faith. Paul writes:

You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols…

The way that Paul contrasts the old and the new, dark and light, death and life is powerful. Here is contrasts that which speaks and that which is mute.

I think we are reminded all the more about the way the Spirit that dwells in us speaks when we think back to past ways. The church in Corinth, in following after false religion, worshipped idols. Already Paul has discussed how these idols and so-called gods have no real existence. So when we think to the way the Spirit manifests himself in us, it is not like anything from the pagan practices. Those idols were mute. There is no way those idols were going to speak through the people. But that is not what we have now. The living God has sent us his Spirit and by the Spirit we speak. God has not sent us his Spirit to remain idle and mute in the church. The Holy Spirit in us is the only way that we can make our confession of faith, only by the Spirit can we say, “Jesus is Lord.”