Comparing our gifts and status to those of the person sitting next to us on the same pew (or in a time like this, next to us on the Zoom gallery view) is a very dangerous thing to do. Judging ourselves by this standard belittles or inflates what we have been given, which leads to either ungratefulness or pride.
“There arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be the greatest” (Luke 9:46). We know who it is that sows this thought in the Christian community. He did it among the disciples, he did it again among the status seekers in the Corinthian church. And we can be sure that he is still doing it today. Let us bear in mind that every Christian community which comes together will have this emerging seed of discord. It is the struggle of the innate natural man for self-justification, which finds it only in comparing with others, in condemning and judging others. Like a seed which initially grows its roots out of sight, it is enough to seriously undermine the foundational unity of the church.
Hence, it is absolutely necessary that we face this dangerous enemy squarely, so that we may eradicate it. The status seekers in Corinth pursued “greater” gifts like speaking in tongues; because they thought having it made them more spiritual than those who had not. In doing so, they not only caused divisions among themselves, but also missed the entire point of the Spirit’s gifts!
The church is made up of many diverse parts even though it is a single body (1 Cor. 12:12, 14, 20). whether our gifts or class statuses are prominent or modest, we are all unique and distinct persons in the Christian community where each is an indispensable link in a chain (1 Cor. 12:15). As Bonhoeffer says, “Only when even the smallest link is securely interlocked is the chain unbreakable” (in Life Together, p.94).
We must realise that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. Believers need those to whom they can show active care, protection, support and love; otherwise they cannot serve as Christ served “for others.” Only through human weakness can the people of God fully glory in God alone. Unlike the status seekers in Corinth who perceived themselves as the “essential” core of the church, the weak perform vital functions which the “stronger” can never perform. All are needed.