By Josh Corrick
Take your hands and fold them as if you are about to pray, each finger interlocking with the next. No, seriously go ahead and do it really quick. Now look at your hands; some of you will have your right thumb on top of your hands and others of you will have your left thumb on top. Now, just for fun switch which thumb is on top. Does it feel weird? Unusual? It should feel at least a little odd, because genetically (and habitually) we are each disposed to clasp our hands in one of these ways.
Why does it matter that one thumb is always on top of the other? In just a small way this demonstrates something at a biological level that we may already intuitively understand from faith. We are all unique humans. We each do things more beautifully and absurd than the next person. The Apostle Paul points out this same fact in the image of the Body of Christ.
“Now you are the body of Christ and individual members of it.”
Paul exposes a key element for the Church in Corinth as well as for us: Each member of the church has a different purpose and role but the same value, united in the one mission of glorifying God (Read 1 Corinthians 12 for the whole context). For Corinth this was a crucial message because they were having issues with the rich being treated as more important, and even Jews being viewed as more important than Gentiles. They struggled with viewing all members as equal in value. Now we may not struggle with seeing all believers as valuable (or at least we say we don’t), but we may still struggle with understanding the importance of each person’s unique abilities.
As individual members of the body we must seek to understand ourselves. By knowing who God has shaped us into, we may more easily interface with the world around us and know our “sweet spot.”
This process always flows from an already-working relationship with Christ. Knowing Christ’s character empowers us to uncover the dark corners of our own character and let him redeem them for his purposes in the Body.
This knowledge of ourselves is not solely for our own benefit, but for the benefit of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. When we know our strengths, limitations, and dispositions, we may more fully serve others better than ourselves, for we will know our place in the Body. Understanding ourselves also makes it easier to collaborate with others if you know what you can contribute. Ultimately knowing your place in the Body should glorify God and not self.
1 Reiss, M. "The genetics of hand-clasping a review and a familial study." Annals Of Human Biology 26, no. 1 (January 1999): 39-48.
2 1 Corinthians 12:27
3 My Pastor after college, Tracy Larson, always uses this phrase when talking about spiritual gifts and knowing yourself. It has become a part of my own vocabulary, but I can’t use it without giving due credit.