This is episode nine, “The Body of Christ,” part one. In this episode, I confront a deadly spiritual illness in the American religious community, what some call a “sit and get” mentality. Too many believers in God view church attendance and membership from a “What do I get from it” angle instead of the more biblical view of, “What can I give?” Contributions from every part of the body are needed to keep the church vital and vibrant. “Give and live” should be our mantra.
In this spiritual house, we as priests are worshiping God worshiping him, as Jesus says, in spirit and truth. And last week, we talked about the types of attitudes that worship requires. How it requires a sense of reverence and humility and devotion and a willingness to serve. And it’s on that last idea, this idea of service, that I’d like to begin today.
What Does it Mean to be in the BODY of Christ?
I’d like to talk for the next couple of weeks about how the church is the body of Christ and what that idea of a body really means. I’ve alluded to this in past episodes. But I want to just come right out and say that I have seen an illness in the American religious community that I think is very, very damaging.
Many, many years ago, I was talking with a woman who was sharing with me her reasons for going to church. And she said, “You know I go to church because that’s the one time of the week that’s all mine. I think about where I’m at; I think about what’s going on in my life. And that’s the time when no one can bother me. Nobody can talk with me. It’s just me.”
I remember thinking at the time that that seemed to make some sense. But the more I have thought about it since then, it’s given me pause. I don’t think that this woman was particularly unique in America. And it seems to me that a lot of Americans (and I’m, of course, painting with very broad brush strokes here, talking in very general terms) a lot of Americans may only go to church because of what they think they can get out of it.
This is not the attitude, though, that God teaches us in the New Testament.
The Body of Christ is Like the Human Body
And it’s certainly not the attitude that a body — a human body — adopts whenever you cut yourself or injure yourself in some way. Do you realize that your body all of a sudden becomes focused on healing that broken part — that part that’s been injured — that injury kicks off a very intricate process where almost the entire body dedicates itself to healing almost immediately.
And this is the sort of thing that the New Testament writers have in mind when they compare the church to a body. It’s not just within the sense of being in connection with Jesus (who is the head of the church, and we are the body). It’s much more than that. It’s the interdependence of the various parts of the body upon one another. That connectedness that the writers of the new testament are drawing us toward.
The Parable of the Talents
One of the ways that we as Christians can be effective members of the church is to put to work the gifts that God has given us. Do you remember the parable of the talents? Jesus taught this parable. He says that a master gave to three different servants three different amounts. He gives to one five talents, to another two talents, and to one, one talent. And then he goes on his way, leaves them to their own devices, and expects upon his return that they will have done something with those talents.
And if you’re familiar with the parable, you know how it ends. He comes back, and to the one whom he had given five talents, he had doubled that amount. He now had ten talents. The master is very, very pleased with this. He praises that servant.
And the one to whom he had given two talents that person had put those talents to work and had doubled their amount as well. And again, the master is very, very pleased with what the servant has done.
But the servant with one talent took his talent, and he buried it in the ground, and he did so because he said to his master, “I was afraid.” So the master takes that talent from him, turns it over the one who has more and punishes that servant.
Different Types of Gifts in the Body of Christ
The message behind this parable is very, very clear. Jesus Christ has given all of us gifts, and he expects those gifts to be put to work. Now those gifts can vary. And indeed, there are many different types of gifts that we see in the New Testament. Some are miraculous in nature. That’s what Paul talks about in First Corinthians chapter 12. He talks about this miraculous manifestation of the spirit: the speaking in tongues, the ability to prophesy, the ability to heal. All these were gifts that were present in the first century.
But there are more different types of gifts than just those. Over in the 12th chapter of the book of Romans, Paul tells us that we all have gifts that have been given to us by Jesus Christ. notice what he says, “For I say through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”
Let’s pause there. Think back, if you will for a moment, to our lesson on worshiping God, and one of the attitudes that we talked about is humility. What does Paul say here in Romans chapter 12 verse number 3? Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think but think soberly. It’s a temptation for us to get carried away with our own perceptions of ourselves. Instead, Paul is urging us toward humility. And also to take a look at what God has dealt to us IN humility. So that we may put it to work.
Different Gifts, Different Functions
In verse number four, Paul says, “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function. so we being many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.” You see, in the church, there are all sorts of gifts, all sorts of talents that God has given to us. And once again, I’m not talking about miraculous gifts. I’m talking about talents and abilities that can be used to serve the body.
And notice that in verse number four, Paul emphasizes the fact that we are one body with many different members that have many different functions. So the diversity of gifts that we have in the body is a real blessing. We don’t all have the same function. We can’t all serve in the same capacity. But whatever we have been given, Paul says we need to put it to work.
God has given to each one of us a measure of faith. He’s given to each one of us gifts, and we need to think about that. Recognize what those gifts are and put them to work in the kingdom of God. That’s what it means to be a part of the body.
Whatever You Can Do, Do It!
He goes on to say in verse number six,
“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use: them if prophecy let us prophesy in proportion to our faith, or ministry let us use it in ministering, or he who teaches in teaching, he who exhorts an exhortation, he who gives with liberality, he who leads with diligence, he who shows mercy with cheerfulness.”
Now in that list, there’s only one gift that was miraculous in nature, and that’s prophesying. Only someone who had received the miraculous measure of the spirit could prophesy. All of these other gifts — however — all of these other gifts are things that any Christian can have. They’re not miraculous in nature.
Some people have a real knack for serving for ministering. Now we’re all commanded to be ministers; we’re all commanded to serve and to find ways to serve. But some people are just, by nature, servants. It’s a wonderful thing to see.
There are some people who are natural teachers, and they need to put that teaching to work in the church. There are people who are naturally gifted at exhortation. To exhort simply means to stir up to motivate. And there are folks in the church who are really good at that.
There are folks who have a natural gift of forgiving. They are very, very generous. Paul says to put that gift to use with liberality.
And then there are natural-born leaders. And if you have that gift, paul says, apply it with diligence.
And then there are folks who are just naturally forgiving. And Paul says to be sure if you’ve got that gift to be cheerful.
Develop New Gifts and Put Them to Work!
Some of us could possess these gifts in varying measures. The point is to help us consider what gifts God has given to us and make sure we’re putting them to work in the kingdom of God. And I don’t want to limit it just to the gifts that he lists here. I think we can look at all sorts of ways that our natural abilities — or even the training we have received — can be put to use in the kingdom of God. There are people who aren’t necessarily natural teachers but who, through their education and through practice, become very good teachers. Well, if you’ve developed that gift, put it to work. That’s what it means to be a part of the body of Christ.
And this all stems back to an attitude that we all need to adopt, and that is if you see a need in the church, don’t wait for someone else to take care of it. Do it yourself.
Serve the Body of Christ
Thinking back to that woman who I mentioned in my introduction — the woman who went to church for herself and for no one else — what a sad commentary that is and what a gross misunderstanding of what the church is. You see, the church is a body, a body whose members depend upon each other. And if all you care about is yourself, then you’re just taking the talent that God has given you and burying it in the ground. Why are you afraid? God has blessed you with real abilities. Put them to work. Serve in the kingdom of God. Don’t hold them for yourself. and in doing so, you will grow, and you will please the head of your master