For the Profit of All
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:” (1 Corinthians 12:7)
It’s not hard to see how a fear that no one else is going to be concerned about our interests might cause us to become increasingly selfish. Such a fear is not without merit in this dark world. Many of the people we meet make it clear to us that they are totally unconcerned with what is best for us.
Yet, contrast this way of thinking with the beauty of God’s arrangement for the body of Christ. God instructs those who are His to have the mind of Christ and to esteem others better than ourselves. We are told to not only look out for our own interests (which implies that we are responsible to do what we can for ourselves), but we are also to look out for the interests of others. When man was unable to address the problem of sin, Jesus endured the terrible “inconvenience” of leaving heaven to come to earth and die on the cross. He sacrificed for the sake of our interests to the point that when He did what was necessary for our redemption He was actually acting contrary to what was in His best interests. In this way, He esteemed us as better than Himself because He put Himself in harm’s way so that we could escape the condemnation of sin. (Philippians 2:1-8)
The beauty of God’s arrangement for meeting the needs of His people is at the heart of what moves us to obey the gospel (Acts 2:37; 1 John 4:19) and through acts of service to those who are truly in need we are constantly reminded of times when the Father has cared for us and held our hand along the way. In view of this, we are usually able to look back on opportunities to serve others as a privilege eventually. We come to realize that by such service we have shared the Father’s love with another and we have imitated, in a small way, the great love of His Son.
Not only does God instruct His people to look out for the interests of one another, but He also equips us with various abilities by which we may serve one another. In 1 Corinthians 12:7, Paul reminds the Corinthians that their spiritual gifts had been given to them for the profit of the whole church. And while such miraculous workings ended when the apostles who imparted them were gone (Acts 8:14-21), we are often admonished to use whatever gifts God has given us in service to others and to the cause of Christ. (Acts 11:29; Romans 12:6-15; 15:27; 2 Corinthians 8:1-4; 1 Timothy 4:14-16; 1 Peter 4:10, 11)
Selfishness, however, turns us away from this vast pool of opportunity and ability. We tell ourselves that through selfishness our needs are sure to be met, but in reality we are limiting ourselves tremendously. In God’s arrangement, needs are met by each member looking out for the interests of others so that even if the congregation that we are a part of has only 10 members, God’s arrangement has 10 people looking out for our interests, not to mention God Himself. But selfishness has only one person looking out for our interests, not to mention that God will now be working against us! (James 4:2-4) It is easy to see the futility of such a course when we think of it this way, but in the throes of selfishness we are often scared, angry, or proud and it’s hard for us to be reasonable.
All of this does not mean that God’s arrangement guarantees all needs will be met in this life. Christians know better than this. Such would be all that God promises heaven to be and there would be no reason to for us to leave this life. The absence of total fulfillment while here on earth is one reason why we yearn for our eternal home. Additionally, every member of the body will not always trust God’s arrangement, and, because of selfishness, the potential of God’s arrangement for His people will not always be fully realized. However, this does not change the fact that God’s way will always be better for us than self-seeking.