Jasmine writing on how God has assembled the members in his church body, each one with a purpose, each one with a need:
I used to call myself a toe.
I thought it was a super unique way of self-deprecating, of calling myself worthless. “This is so funny, I bet no one else has ever referred to them self as a toe.”
People in the Corinthian church coined this term way before I did. If you were to turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 12, you’d find Paul addressing this group of people who were essentially calling themselves toes. They felt worthless in the Body of Christ. Why? Because they saw themselves as just a small, unnoticeable part of the body. They were a foot, so they thought, “I have no important role to play here because I’m just a foot. God can’t use me because I’m not like my neighbor who is a head. Heads matter, feet don’t. No one notices a toe.”
So there was this group who thought themselves to be of no value to the Body of Christ because no one noticed them. And then there was another group, lets call them the “heads,” who would say to the feet, “You’re right. I don’t need you. You’re a foot. I’m a head. I can think on my own and people notice me and know what I do. Why would I need a foot?”
Sounds like a silly children’s story, doesn’t it? But this is the reality that the Corinthian Christians operated under. They were called to be the Body of Christ, but they preferred to be members that existed in isolation, or they preferred to deny their membership.
As the author of Ecclesiastes says, there is nothing new under the sun. We do the same thing today.
Let’s imagine this in todays context:
My husband Tyler helps with the set up team on Sunday mornings. The set up team gets to church at 7:30am, lays tarps, sets up 400 chairs, tables, chairs, signs, sound equipment—basically everything you’d need for a typical Sunday service to run. For those of us who don’t serve on the set up team, we usually just mosey on into church, find our seats and don’t give a second thought to how those chairs got there. It’s clear that we need the set up team, even if we fail to acknowledge it. They remain faithful in their service, Sunday after Sunday, and we would definitely feel it if they were to disappear.
Imagine if one of the pastors were to walk up to them that morning and say, “Hey, you don’t matter. We don’t need you here.” (For the record, none of the pastors would do this, but for illustration’s sake, just imagine this). We would probably be pretty offended and come to the defense of the set up team. It’s obvious that they are needed, and the “head” in this scenario would quickly be called into question.
Picture another scenario:
The entire set up team becomes discouraged one Sunday, saying, “I’m just a foot. No one notices me. I don’t matter, so I’m not going to perform my role,” and they leave. No chairs are set up. Nothing is ready for the Sunday gathering. That would certainly be felt, and it would be clear that they were wrong in saying they went unnoticed. They do matter.
These illustrations are exaggeration, and are highly unlikely to happen in our church because we have pastors who value their members and a set up team who joyfully and faithfully serves in such a needed capacity.
What I want you to see in this is your own heart. If you’re being honest with yourself, how many times have you thought in your heart, “Because I am a eye, I have no need of the hand.” Or, “Because I am a foot, and the person next to me is a head, I serve no purpose. I don’t matter.”
I know I have said both. Depending on the season and the current state of the heart, we’re prone to say both. And what we’re forgetting is that the Body of Christ is much bigger than the self-sufficient head who thinks she needs no one, or the self-deprecating hand who is convinced he has no significant purpose. The Body is bigger than it’s members. Why? 1 Corinthians 12:18 gives us the answer:
“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.”
God arranged the members in the body. Each one of them. He chose where the hand would go and what function it would serve. He chose where the toenail would go and gave it a purpose. He chose where he wanted each member, every single one of them, and he gave each one a purpose to serve.
God composed the body. Not on a whim, not by mistake, but with intentionality. The composition of the body is the evidence of God’s wisdom. Let that sink in.
If I am to say that the role God has given me in the church, my gifts and my skills, don’t matter, that God can’t use them and that his body doesn’t need them, I am calling God unwise.
If I am to say that my role in the church is so significant that I don’t need anybody else’s help, I am calling God a liar.
God composed the body in his wisdom, and the body ought to trust and submit to the wisdom of God.
On days when I don’t feel like I serve a purpose in his church, I remind myself that God is wise, that he is deeply involved in the body, and that he has placed me exactly where he wants me to carry out the exact purpose he has created me for in that season. On days when I feel pridefully self-sufficient, I am humbled by the wisdom of God that tells me I have a deep and aching need for support from the other members.
Your role in the church may shift with the seasons and change with time. You might be serving as a foot one year, and the next year God may call you to step into the role of an eye. It’s his wisdom that determines this, and his wisdom is trustworthy in every season of service, whether we think it great or small. The point is that God is wise in every season, at all times, and is always composing the body just as he desires it.
Hopefully one day you will be a hand, or a head. I pray that you will progress in your walk with Christ and in your ministry, whatever it may look like, and be even more impactful for the sake of God’s kingdom. But I also pray that you are able to say, “I am a head, but I need the foot. I once was a foot, and I know God uses the foot.”
It’s great that you’re a head, and it’s great that you get to use your position and your God-given skills for his glory, but don’t forget that you do not work in isolation. God has designed your gifts to be supported by other gifts, and he’s designed it so that your gifts compliment the gifts of others. You do not operate in the kingdom in isolation.
Why? To show that only God could take disjointed members and make them function as one complete body. To glorify his name, not yours. To show his power, not yours.
So, I challenge you, along with myself. In your service in the church, examine your heart and ask yourself, “Do I see my role here in light of God’s wisdom? Do I trust that he has put me here with a purpose?” A purpose that does not end in feeling self-sufficient, nor unimportant, but a purpose that leaves us in a sense of awe that the all-wise God would choose broken, disjointed members and assemble them together as the testimony of his grace and glory.
You need the body. You have a role in the body. See God’s glorious wisdom in placing you where you are, and marvel at his grace that is strong enough to hold the body together.