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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 12:14-17 If the whole body were eye

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, May 12, 2023

14 Now the body is not one part but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not part of the body,” it does not stop being part of the body on that account. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not part of the body,” it does not stop being part of the body on that account. 17 If the whole body were eye, where would hearing be? If the whole thing were ear, where would smell be?

Any image of a vaguely human form which has more than one head, more than two fully formed arms or hands, multiple pairs of eyes or ears, would be labeled by most people as a monster. There are of course some human beings born with abnormalities—an additional toe or bone, or an underdeveloped limb—but these are not what Paul has in mind. God made the body diverse; made up of many necessary parts. When we consider ourselves to be part of the body of Christ, we do well to first think of the human body, as Paul does. The parts might envy one another, but that doesn’t set any of them outside the body. John Chrysostom (347-407) said, “He doesn’t make the foot talk about the eye, but about the hand that is placed just a little above it. It is the ear that talks about the eye. For we are prone to envy those who are just a little higher than we are, not those who are very far above us.”

So we who have various roles to carry out in God’s kingdom, the body of Christ, should not envy one another’s glory, but turn our attention onto how well each of us can do our assigned task. A fast runner may gain a certain glory on account of his legs and feet and be “as swift as gazelles in the mountains” (1 Chronicles 12:8). A brilliant artist may gain a certain glory on account of his hands and eyes and be able to do “all kinds of craftsmanship” (Exodus 31:2). A great musician usually needs accomplished hearing as well as nimble fingers or a blessed voice, and on account of their gifts might find that they are “exempt from other duties” (1 Chronicles 9:33). What accomplishment do you and I add to the body of Christ? Do we bring in more prospects? Do we support the pastor by seeing to the coffee pot before Bible Class? Do we share big ideas with the church council that might possibly accomplish more ministry, or streamline something, or do something more efficiently?

Perhaps there is another side to this doctrine. What we have seen so far is that there are many kinds of work to be done for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the community of the church, the way the parts of the body serve the whole body. But what about when a member begins to hamper the work? What if their personal preferences begin to cause a disruption in the life of the congregation? When an ear becomes so enormous that the eye can no longer see past it, does that ear interfere with the body?

A, A teacher objects so strongly to the pastor preaching on a certain Gospel lesson that he scolds the pastor and rebukes him with strong language, accusing him of preaching “an obscure text” and making a threat that the pastor is failing in his task of shepherding the congregation.

B, The pastor begins to plan a weekday Bible class on a certain book of the Bible, but a member of the church staff balks so strongly and openly about “that book” that the Pastor, seeking peace (Psalm 34:14), avoids the book until that coworker leaves the staff.

C, One of a church’s volunteers is always willing to help, but she is remarkably difficult to work with and often discourages people who might otherwise have been able to use their gifts. In her eyes, she is right and everyone else is wrong.

When Paul and Barnabas found that had a difference of opinion about a co-worker, they parted company (Acts 15:39). In their case, both men may have been right. But what about a case when a volunteer or member of a staff is clearly in the wrong? First, the issue should be pointed out. “Whoever heeds correction is honored” (Proverbs 13:18). But if the person refuses to make any change, what should be done? “Whoever ignores correction leads others astray” (Proverbs 10:17). It may be time to ask that person to serve in some other way, for unlike a foot or an ear, we members of the church can adapt and learn to use other gifts. Paul will take this up more strongly when he addresses the proper use of speaking in tongues, and when it should be avoided (1 Corinthians 14:28, 13:1).

When we need correction, let us listen to it and apply it, and whenever necessary, let us repent for our sin, never puffing ourselves up with idle notions, but accepting correction and asking the Holy Spirit to help us turn away from selfish temptations.

Let all of our service be to God’s glory and not to our own (Psalm 115:1). May each of us find satisfaction in all our work. May we be content with our place in life and with the abilities God gives, so that we will abound in every good work.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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