“For, indeed, the body is made up not of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am no part of the body,” that does not make it no part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am no part of the body,” that does not make it no part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If it were all hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has arranged each of the body members just as he pleased. If they were all the same member, where would the body be? But now they are many members, yet one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:14-20)
When the physical body is whole and healthy, each body part serves a function. The hands playing the piano most likely will garner more praise than the feet that works the pedals. The mind that composed essays and music that fascinate our audiences will likely be praised more than the hands that put considerably more work into writing and editing it. But really, all achievements and praise are to the benefit of the whole person.
For a moment though, consider how the other body parts can step in when, say, the hands are injured, damaged. Take for instance the case of a man in China who plays the piano with his toes, or this man in Brazil who plays piano with what is left of his arms (mere stumps). This man also plays the guitar with his feet. When, for the good of the body, adjustments are needed, it is amazing how seemingly “lesser” body parts step right in. And, using Paul’s illustration in 1 Corinthians 12, no body part would ever balk because another part “stepped up to bat.”
We should not lose sight that Paul’s illustration was talking about cooperation within the Christian congregation. This past Sunday, congregations around the world all discussed the article “These Things Entrust to Faithful Men.” It spoke of the tendency that some older ones who have served for decades in various roles within the congregation may find it difficult to let go by training the younger ones. The main theme and lesson was that all things should be done to the praise of our God, Jehovah, and for the benefit of the congregation. Just as insistence from a literally disabled body part that no other body part is permitted to fill the role would cripple the whole body’s ability to provide for itself, so also those who may be slowing down with age would actually cripple the congregation if they were to insist that only they themselves were capable of performing certain tasks.
Like in Paul’s day, do these types of things happen in the modern congregation? Yes, to some limited degree. For example, I’ve seen very dear brothers, suffering with advanced Alzheimer’s, who insisted on being assigned speaking parts in the meetings. I’ve heard, but only second-hand, that at times they went into depression for feeling worthless. But, as cruel as it may sound, it was actually selfish of them because the congregation suffered from it and our God definitely was not praised by it, especially when those who were not Jehovah’s Witnesses came and heard these incoherent speeches. As hard as it may be, firmness is needed by the rest of the body of “older men” when speaking to these dear hearts and letting them know it doesn’t benefit the body for them to indulge their personal ego.
And just as with the toes that seem ill-equipped to play piano and guitar, it may be that younger men who are less qualified and at first seem awkward in their abilities, in time, can be just as proficient as the more experienced men, especially if they are patiently and lovingly trained.
Please know that I am not heartless in my observations. Truly, I can empathize. I personally am not able to do many things in the congregation. In years past, I used to love public speaking and teaching. I was told by many that my skills in teaching were excellent. Yet, due to personal circumstances, I am no longer able to do those things. Yes, it was hard; yes, I felt worthless at times (even to this day). But just as the article linked above mentioned, it is the good of congregation and the praise of our God that should be our primary focus -- not our self-edification.