July 23, 2017
1 Corinthians 12:12-24
It happens in an instant. It’s not like you intend for it to happen, it just all of a sudden hits you when you least expect it. You’re in your driveway washing your car, when all of a sudden your neighbor pulls up in his new car. Shiny. Beautiful. It has all the bells and whistles. It so nice of a car that you stop spraying your car and turn to watch as your neighbor gets out. Suddenly your two door Pontiac G-5, with the broken blinker, and messed up door handle just doesn’t seem as good. His is better.
You’re at the playground with your kids, and it’s just been one of those days. The kids won’t stop arguing and fighting with each other. You just got done calming down another argument when you look over to the other side of the playground and there sits another mother. Her kids are laughing and playing nice together. Suddenly you feel it in your heart. You love your kids and would never trade them for the world, but hers are better. Why can’t you have kids like that?
You’re sitting at home watching TV. Relaxing from a hard day’s work. Suddenly, it grips your heart, and you start to think, “Man, I wish I just had half of those talents.” And suddenly your gifts and abilities, your talents, don’t seem that great. Not compared to theirs on TV.
We’ve all compared ourselves to others. Why do we do it? Why do we compare ourselves to others? Because deep down we want to be the best and have the best. And we think that if we are bigger and better than others, then we’ll have more confidence. Then we have a purpose. Then we are secure in who we are.
Years ago, Madonna was quoted as saying, “My drive in life comes from a fear of being mediocre. That is always pushing me. I push past one spell of it and discover myself as a special human being but then I feel I am still mediocre and uninteresting unless I do something else. Because even though I have become somebody, I still have to prove that I am somebody. My struggle has never ended and I guess it never will.”
She always had to be better than everyone else. Sometimes she felt she achieved it and was content for a little while, but then needed to something else to be better. Why? Because if she wasn’t, then she wasn’t secure in who she was. She wasn’t confident.
And Madonna straight up tells us that she’s in chains. She says, “My struggle has never ended and I guess it never will.” Those are the same chains we experience when we compare ourselves to others. But we are here today to hear how we can be free from these chains of comparison. And to do so we are looking at 1 Corinthians 12.
Corinth was the trade center at the time. It was estimated that Corinth’s population was around 650,000 people. It was a port city which constantly had goods coming to it on boat from Italy and Spain, but also from Asia, Phoenicia and Egypt.
In the midst of this prospering city, a church had been formed with many different people, who had many different gifts. This led the church to suffer from comparison. That comparison led to many factions within the church, and in chapter 12, Paul addresses this comparison problem. The first thing he wants them to know is that…
We are all equal in God’s eyes.
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[a] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
1 Corinthians 12:12-14
Paul says, “Stop comparing. You are all one body in Christ. Stop arguing and comparing who is better. You’re all one.” What Paul wants them, and us to realize is that when it comes to the eyes of God, we are all equal.
First, we are all equally sinners. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are all the same. We’ve all fallen short equally, and haven’t lived up to God’s standards. There’s a story of a little boy named Timmy. One day Timmy ran up to his mom and said, “Mom! Guess what! I’m 8 feet 4 inches tall!” Obviously Timmy’s mother was a bit surprised, and so she asked him what was going on. He said, “Look! I’ll show you.” Timmy ran up to the wall and started measuring himself using a 6 inch ruler to measure a foot.
We can be like Timmy. We want to play the comparison game and we compare ourselves to other people. We look at others and say, “Well, I’m not as bad of a sinner as they are.” Or we say, “I’m worse of a sinner than that person is.” But when we compare ourselves to one another, it’s as if we are measuring our height with 6 inch ruler when it needs to be 12 inches. We are measuring ourselves by an imperfect prototype rather than the perfect prototype of Christ. Yes, we can point to others and says, “Well, compared to that person, I’m not as bad.” But where does that get you? Nowhere. You still don’t measure up to God’s expectations. In God’s eyes we are all equally sinful.
But we are also all equal in what Christ has done for us. Paul says that you are all part of the body of Christ. You’ve all been saved and brought into this body. There’s not such a thing as being more saved than another. Nor is there such a thing as being less saved than others. There is simply saved. And you are equally saved as everyone else. He lived the same perfect life for you as he did everyone else. He died on the cross equally for you as he did everyone else. And what’s even more, Paul says you were baptized in the same baptism as everyone else.
Why is that so that so significant? Because in your baptism the same Holy Spirit, God himself, who lives in other people, lives in you. A few months ago, Anne and I run a warrior dash. It’s a 5k obstacle course that is ran on dirt paths. Well that day it decided to rain all day. By the time we were finished, we were covered in mud head to toe. When I got home, I showered and I watched as all the mud came off of me and went down the drain. By the time I was done, I was clean.
In your baptism, the Holy Spirit enters you and works faith in Jesus in your heart. And when that happened, all of your sins washed off of you and went down the drain. You stand before God clean just like every other Christian. There’s no sin remaining on you. You are just as clean as everyone else. Clean is clean. You are clean in the eyes of God, equally saved with everyone else. And that leads us to our second point.
The gospel gives us what comparison can’t
What are we trying to accomplish by comparing ourselves to others? We are looking for security in who we are, and confidence in who we are. The gospel, the good news of Jesus, gives us that. It gives you security knowing who you are. You are made God’s child in baptism. In your baptism you were made part of Christ’s body. As you look at your body, there’s not a single part of where you’d say, “Well, I guess that’s part of my body.” No! The whole thing is your body and belongs to you. Jesus says you are part of his body. This is who you are. What could possibly be better?
It also gives you contentment because you realize that God hasn’t just given you something better, he’s given you the best. He gave his only Son so that you have forgiveness, life, and salvation. He’s made you clean, and has promised his eternal treasures to you. You don’t have to compare yourselves, what you have or what you don’t have. God has given you the best.
Though we are equally saved in God’s eyes, there are differences among us. So how do we deal with that? Because let’s be honest, there are people better than us in different areas. So how do we deal? Here’s what we need to remember…
Comparison destroys unity
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
1 Corinthians 12:15-20
Paul uses this brilliant analogy of the human body to demonstrate how it is in the body of Christ. He says, “If a foot should say because I’m not a hand I don’t belong to the body.” It does not stop being part of the body. Not at all. It still is a part of the body. We can’t all be an eye, otherwise we’d be a monster.
Here’s the lesson: just because I don’t have the same gifts as others, it doesn’t mean I’m not part of the body. In fact, I’m hurting the unity of the body when I’m mourning what I don’t have. How so? If I’m always focused on what I don’t have, I’m not using the gifts that God has given me for his body. I’m simply living in chains of discontent and bitterness as I compare myself to others.
God has created you uniquely. You have gifts that no one else in this room has. In fact, you have gifts that almost no one in the world has. How many of you have heard of Strength Finders? It’s a book and a website that have determined there are 34 different strengths that people have. Everyone can do all 34 strengths, but generally your top 5 strengths are the ones you excel at. My top 5 strengths are: include, woo, futuristic, communication, and activator.
Now here’s the crazy part: the chances of someone having the same top 5 strengths as you: 1 in 300,000. The chances that someone has the same top 5 strengths as you and in the same order: 1 in 11,400,000. The chances of someone having all 34 strengths as you in the same order is greater than the chances of you winning the lottery.
Here’s the point: God has created you with unique gifts, talents, abilities, financial situations. Give thanks for the gifts you have, and make use of them. You have gifts that no one else has. There’s no need to look at mourn that you don’t have what they have, because they don’t have what you have. Paul continues…
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,
1 Corinthians 12:21-24
Just because you have gifts and abilities others don’t, doesn’t mean you don’t need them. There’s no point in boasting about my gifts, abilities, what I have compared to others, because we all need each other. Especially in the body of Christ. As we go out to spread this message of our Savior, we all need each other’s unique individual gifts to reach the most people we possibly can. One person cannot do it.
What destroys comparison is equality in Christ.
“You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it.” What destroys comparison? Realizing we are all the body of Christ. There isn’t a single part of the body that is more important than another. Yes, we all have different abilities, but we are all needed.
Take a second and to think of what the most important body part is. Did anyone say the eyelashes? No? Weird. If it wasn’t for the eyelashes dust particles and other things would get into the eye. They serve to protect the eye.
Jesus has made us part of his body. He has washed your sins away just as much as he has washed everyone else’s sins away. You are equally part of his body as everyone else because you have had your sins forgiven. He gives you gifts specifically to you, and they are just as important as what other people have.
So this week, let’s do a couple of things. First, give thanks for the gifts God has given you. They are more than you think. Think through all the gifts he’s given you: talents, abilities, physical blessings, spiritual blessings…etc. Second, give thanks for the gifts that other people have. And finally, and most importantly, give thanks for the gifts that you share. Give thanks that God has equally cleaned your soul in baptism. Give thanks that he has equally forgiven your sins as others. Give thanks that he has equally made you his child, and he has equally given you the best of heaven just like everyone else.