I’m sure the debate will end at some point, but for now, people love a good debate on who the greater basketball player is: Michael Jordan or LeBron James. You can compare championships, MVP awards, games played, points per game—stat after stat—and no decisive winner is proclaimed. The divide over Air Jordan and King James is a hallmark of NBA discussion. Everyone wants their guy to be the guy. No one wants to be the lesser, and sadly, this stat-and-status war can be found in the local church, too.
The Corinthians were struggling with spiritual gifts. They weren’t having a hard time exercising them—they were exalting them. They were comparing stats. Who has what gift? Who plays what role? They were dividing themselves over their differences, demeaning the unifying power of Christ’s cross, resurrection, and impartation of the Holy Spirit. They found their identity in what they did for Jesus, rather than who they were in Him.
Brothers, we are not our ministries. Christ defines us. Just as we are prone to do, the Corinthians were turning the gifts of the Spirit into status symbols, assuming that people who have been given “Gift A” are more important, vital, and spiritual than people who have the less flashy, middle of the road, “Gift M.” Paul crushes this division with a vision of the body; toes, nose hairs, and eyelids are all a part of the whole. No one is more or less a part of the body than anyone else.
Why do we lift up the preachers and teachers among us and look right past the sound guys, the setup crew, and the people who print the bulletins? Don’t downplay your role, via the gifting of the Spirit, in your local church. Your service, encouragement, and giving matter to the mission of God. But don’t overplay your gifts either. We forget that the Spirit is at work in all of us. From the seminary-trained preacher to the volunteer children’s ministry teacher, and from the hands and feet to the vocal cords, the Holy Spirit is at work.
When we remember that it’s the Spirit who is at work in our local church, we are less likely to compare stats and status. When we know this truth we will see, as Paul says, that “the members would have the same concern for each other. So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:25–26). Sure, we all have different gifts, but the source is the same Spirit. Everyone is valuable. God made it so.
Written by J.A. Medders