One body, many members – Tuesday, 24th week in ordinary time – 1 Corinthians 12:12-14,27-31a
Chapters 12-14 of 1 Corinthians gives us an insight into the spiritual gifts of the community. There were some in the community who claimed to speak under the spontaneous inspiration of the Holy Spirit. These ‘prophets’ (verse 28) or ‘spiritual’ men (14:37) had provoked a sense of one-upmanship, leading to a rivalry in the community. They portrayed themselves as being better as they had the gift of tongues (also called glossolalia) and the gift of prophecy. As a consequence, some leaders lacking these gifts were being lightly esteemed.
Paul approaches this matter with concern and caution. Paul reminds the Corinthians that all ecstatic communication may not be from God. It was evident that some religious ecstasy that they were indulging in resembled the religious ecstasy of the pagans and that the mere fact of ecstatics in their worship was insufficient evidence of the presence of the Spirit of God. Therefore, it is necessary to test the spirits.
Paul also acknowledges that only some persons have the capacity to distinguish between spirits (vs. 10) and that this capacity is itself a gift inspired by the Spirit of God (vs. 4-6). Paul gives us a thumb rule when looking at the gifts given by God. There are (a) a variety of gifts (b)there is one source of these gifts and (c) their common purpose is clear, viz. the good of the entire community rather than of isolated individuals. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 mentions these gifts as wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Notice; while the gift of tongue were flaunted by some as a special gift, Paul not only mentions it last in this list but also mentions it last again in verses 27 and 28. There is a human tendency to be dazzled by the spectacular. The gift of miracles may far outshine in our simplistic thinking, the gift of faith. It is for this reason that Paul stresses a variety of gifts.
It is in this context that our text of today rolls in with a practical application; that of the human body. Just as a living organism depends on the proper functioning of not merely some but all of its parts, so does the Church. It cannot thrive if it only considers some members like the “prophets” and the “spiritual” men important to its well-being and the rest nonessential.
Remember that Paul is addressing their spiritual concerns (12:1) and his message is meant to be instructive. What is honoured by God and in the church seems foolish to the world, which commonly honours spectacular gifts. Every gift from God is a gift from God.