By Jenny Fulton
The human body is a truly magnificent work of art. It’s incredibly complex. As much as we know about it and how it works, there’s still so much we don’t know, so much we’re still learning. Everything in our body has a purpose and is intricately connected. An injured rib can result in a throbbing back, stomach/intestinal issues can make your feet hurt, plugging your nose impacts your sense of taste. In some ways, this interconnectedness strengthens the body. For example, if the eyes cease to see, the body may rally to provide greater strength to the ears. In other ways, this interdependence makes the body incredibly fragile. An infection in one area can quickly spread to other areas. Every part of the body is essential. They need each other, and they all suffer if one of them is sick, injured, or missing.
Is it any wonder that God used the analogy of the body to describe how His people should relate to and interact with one another?
In Romans 12:4-5, Paul writes, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (NASB).
We all have a different function – a different role in society and in each other’s lives. We are all connected.Tweet
Paul expands upon this idea in I Corinthians 12:12-27.
Before you read this passage, allow me to provide some context. The Corinthian church had fallen into an unhealthy pattern: they had placed values upon the various spiritual gifts and abilities and were vying for positions of prominence based upon their possession of the more esteemed gifts. This manner of giving greater value to some abilities and lesser value to others was causing dissension and dividing the church. So, Paul wrote to them, urging them to give value to every work and to extend the same care to every member.
He said, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
“For the body is not one member, but many.
“If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
“And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
“If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
“But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body.
“And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it.
“But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (NASB).
Every part of the body is necessary. Every person is essential.Tweet
The Glorification of the Intelligentsia
Do you think God meant for this pattern of equally esteeming different abilities to be relegated only to interactions among the believers when they gathered to fellowship and worship Him? I think not.
Unfortunately, when I look around today, I see a world that has fallen into the same trap as the Corinthian church – a world in which we esteem some professions and abilities higher than others. We value science and those who have PhD’s (especially if it’s in a scientific field) as being superior to the rest of us. Some among these intellectual elites lift themselves to even greater heights, setting themselves up as gods above the masses.
Is this the pattern God would have us follow? Does He more highly esteem these members of the Intelligentsia and assign them to be our governors and overlords? Or is this something we have done apart from His guidance? Have we replaced the glory of God with a glorification of the intellect? Have we shifted our hope, faith, and trust from a great God we cannot see to models and opinions crafted by intellectual humans we can? Do we now value the wisdom and directives of man above those given and offered by God?
Models of Intelligence
Our society esteems intelligence – there’s no getting around that. In and of itself, this isn’t a bad thing. God gave us beautiful minds and desires for us to use them. But what is intelligence and who has it?
Neither of my parents have college degrees, but they are among the most intelligent people I know.
My dad has dyslexia. In high school, he wasn’t allowed to take the math and science classes he wanted because his English scores weren’t good enough. Nevertheless, he learned how to be an electrician, became highly skilled at cleaning and repairing guns, became an EMT and a fire chief. He taught himself about computers when they first made their way into the homes of our small town and soon became the go-to man whenever someone had computer problems. My childhood is filled with memories of people stopping by to drop off guns or computers for my dad to fix. He later obtained the necessary certification to run the computer systems at our county hospital. My dad now serves as an Emergency Preparedness Director.
Throughout the course of her life, my mom has learned and excelled in several professions. She was a stay-at-home mom who cooked and sewed, a CNA, a bank teller, taught herself sign language and became so proficient in it that she became an interpreter for a young girl going through our school system. She is also one of the most comprehensive proof-readers I’ve worked with. For the past decade my mom has worked as a human resources assistant at the hospital.
Although I excelled in school and went on receive two bachelors degrees*, these early models of intellectual achievement never left me.
So, what is intelligence?
According to Merriam-Webster, intelligence is: “(1) the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations : reason also : the skilled use of reason (2) : the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria.”
We esteem intelligence, but here’s the thing, based on the definition, every profession and every skill requires intelligence. Therefore, everyone who utilizes any skill set or knowledge base is intelligent. The difference comes in regard to their area of expertise – not in their ability to think and reason.
Intelligence isn’t dependent upon a college degree. Having one doesn’t automatically make someone a better thinking and being without one doesn’t render a person unqualified to process and analyze information. Degrees are one way in which people obtain highly specialized knowledge. Practical, hands-on experience is another. The higher the degree, the more concentrated the knowledge. People with PhD’s don’t know everything about everything. Instead, they know a lot about a very narrow field of study. Their input is worth seeking out as it pertains to their area of expertise, but their knowledge base isn’t inherently more valuable than that of a farmer, rancher, mechanic, mother, waitress, etc. The existence of multiple degrees does not make them more intelligent or give them grounds for superiority. It doesn’t turn their opinions into facts and policy or make them immune to errors of reason and logic. It simply makes them humans with a deep and extremely specific pool of knowledge.
The absence of a degree, or the possession of a degree in a field that isn’t in the realm of math and science, doesn’t disqualify a person from being able to understand and analyze statistical data and other information. It doesn’t make them or their opinions less valuable or automatically designate them as being ill-informed or unqualified. It simply means they possess a different knowledge base and express their intellect in a different context.
Bringing the Body Together
We need each other. We need those in the medical field who can pull from their knowledge of the human body to help us recover when we’re sick or injured. We need nutritionists who can advise us on healthy eating practices, massage therapist, chiropractors, and physical trainers who can help us keep our body in working shape. We need teachers, managers, engineers, accountants, administrative assistants, store clerks, mechanics, mothers, fathers, waitresses, farmers, ranches, artists, musicians, child-care workers, and on and on and on…
We need the many personalities, areas of interest, passions, and intelligence that exhibit themselves in countless unique ways in various individuals.
We are all incredibly valuable and essential to each other’s lives and well-being – both within the church and in our society.
God doesn’t distinguish between essential and non-essential workers. He doesn’t esteem one person over another based upon their degrees, profession, or societal status. Instead, He calls us to esteem one another, care for one another, love one another.
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing” (I Corinthians 13:1-3, NASB).
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*I received a B.S. in Bible, a B.S. in Elementary Education, and an endorsement in ESL. My husband, John, has a B.S. in Computer Science, a B.S. in Meteorology, an M.S. in Atmospheric Science, and has pursued coursework for a PhD in Theology and Biblical Studies.
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Other Articles in this Series: The Essential Workings of the Body Part 2 — The Value of the Emotions
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