“BEWARE OF THE EYE-FIST-FOOT” 1 Corinthians 12:12-31A

“BEWARE OF THE EYE-FIST-FOOT” 1 Corinthians 12:12-31A

– Paul compares the church to a physical body. What happens when one member tries to do it all? What would happen if a foot tried to see and shake hands? Each must serve according to their God given gifts in turn or we cannot achieve the design God has made for us.


This morning I have a chilling tale to tell you. You might want to snuggle in close to your neighbors in the pews in case you are terrified. The tale I am about to tell you is disturbing… it is the horrifying tale of the mutant creature the “Eye-fist-foot.”

In the beginning, the “Eye-fist-foot” was a person with a normal body. This person, was named Hashbaddanah… just kidding. He was named Steve. Steve lived peacefully in a village in southwest Pennsylvania until one day, Steve became upset with his body. His legs were walking too slow. His hands were weak, and were not skilled enough to write well. However, his eyes were strong and his vision was great. He became jealous of those who had strong legs and strong arms. He started to think that he was no good, and withdrew from his village. When he was a teenager, Steve ran away to live in the woods. Steve took up residence in an old, abandoned, one-room church, and began to hunt and live off of nature.

One day, Steve was hunting squirrels when he came across a travelling caravan of Gypsies. He was about to slowly back away into the woods, when he backed up into an old woman who was carrying a bundle of sticks. “Who are you?” she barked at him. After Steve’s heart started beating again, he replied, “My name is Steve. Who are you?”

“My name is Sherebiah” She replied. Just kidding. “My name is Zora, and my family and I are travelling to the magical land of Ohio.” She replied. Steve was a little scared because he was not used to strangers.

“I mean you and your family no harm, I was simply hunting. I will leave now and let you be.” Said Steve. “Not so fast, Steve. You have the look of someone who is tormented by something… something perhaps you wish you could change?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Replied Steve. “I think you do…” Said Zora. “If you give me those squirrels that you are carrying, I will give you this mysterious artifact that will grant you one wish.” Zora produced a plastic card with a funny symbol on it. “All you have to do,” said Zora, “Is scan this QR code into your smartphone, and you will download a magical app that will grant you one wish.”

“Wow…” Said Steve. He wasn’t sure it would work, but he knew it was easy to hunt more squirrels. “Ok Ms. Zora, you have a deal. “Very good then, here you go. Leave the squirrels and be on your way.”

Steve did as he was instructed and went back to his abandoned church hideout. Steve pulled out his smartphone and scanned the card. Sure enough, an app downloaded named “wisher.” Steve’s palms were sweaty as he tapped on the icon to start the app.

The screen displayed some words “press here and speak your wish into the microphone.” Steve thought, finally, my chance to make my hands and feet as strong as my eyes! He rashly tapped the screen and said, “I wish that all my body parts were the same and strong, just like my eyes!” The phone beeped. Immediately, Steve began screaming in pain, as his legs and his arms started to lose their shape. Even Steve’s head started losing its shape. Before long, Steve had turned into a horrible beast that resembled a starfish. Coming out of Steve’s body were five hideous tentacles covered in eyes and suction cups.

Steve had no head, no arms, no legs. Just 5 crazy tentacles that had eyes, and suction cups. Each tentacle was the same, each tentacle functioned as an eye, a hand, and a foot. And they all worked great for any task that Steve could have imagined.

It wasn’t long before people started having encounters with Steve in the woods. People would return to the big city will tales of a horrible creature with tentacles that they called, “The eye, fist, foot.” Anyone who caught a glimpse of this horrible creature was disgusted. So Steve began only coming out in the dark of night, to avoid being seen.

To this day, they say that the horrible eye-fist-foot haunts churches in Southwest Pennsylvania. So if you are ever in a church building after dark, take care, because you too might see the horrifying beast known as the “Eye-fist-foot.”

You might think that the tall tale that I just spun to you has no relation to real life. But I am telling you, this kind of beast is very real, and it does hide out in our churches….

You see, what makes the eye-fist-foot so horrifying is that it doesn’t look like it was created to look. Steve is a person, and a person usually has two eyes, two legs, and two arms. That is the form that God set for humans to take. That is God’s design for a human body.

In the same way, God has designed the church body to have a specific form. We don’t usually think about people in a congregation as part of the church body, but clearly God does. We read about the body of Christ as the church in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

Just a minute ago we read, “…in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”

The different parts of Christ’s body that we read about represent each unique person in the congregation. Each person has a unique gift given to them that is to be used in the congregation. We must all work together in harmony, each exercising our own gifts. This is how God designed the church to function.

Now, as Paul has pointed out to us, there are many ways that this design could go wrong. Let us discuss two of them this morning.

First, some people might be jealous of other people’s gifts. I have heard many times in my day, people say with a sigh, I could never speak in front of the congregation or teach a class, but I wish I could. In the congregation, those who get more “face-time” up front are often thought of as having the best gifts. Paul says this is silly. It would be like an eye being jealous of a foot.

But it happens. And all we need to do when it happens to us, is to recognize that it is happening, and speak it out loud. Then we can address it. Everyone from time to time feels like they are unappreciated, or like their gifts are not important. It is ok to tell people that. And for those who hear someone say something like, “I could never do what you do.” Or “I can’t teach, or speak, or be a hospitality person, or whatever.” That is each of our chance to build up the body of Christ! And It is a good thing. All we have to do is say something like this. “It’s fine. Whatever gifts you have and can bring are important and exactly what God wants you to do.” Resist the urge to say “You can do it! You can do anything if you try!” (I am talking to myself here, because I tend to do that). It’s actually a lie and not helpful for the body of Christ. A foot can never be a hand… you could work on picking things up with your toes I suppose, but it would never be the same as picking something up with your hand.

The second way God’s design for the body of Christ could go wrong, is if a few members try to be every part of the body. For example, if the one member tries to teach, and lead, and help, and be a hospitality person. Now, people’s gifts can change and accumulate over time, but if some of the members of the church are over-functioning, or trying to exercise all the gifts, then the church loses its form. Just like the hideous eye-fist-foot, the design that God had in mind for the congregation is mutated into something strange. Like a blob with a few tentacles that do everything.

It is easy in a congregation for people who love the church to fall into this trap. Paul writes this in our scripture this morning, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” I think people in general are good with the rejoicing part, but what about the suffering part?

Every person has a different threshold for how much emotional pain they can handle. For some, that threshold is low. If that describes you, be cautious. Rather than suffer with the rest of the body when one member is suffering, your tendency might be to try to become like the suffering member, and do the functions that they did. An example would be, if there are no volunteers to manage the flowers for Sunday Service. Perhaps one of the Sunday School teachers feels very strongly that the flowers should be there every Sunday. They would be sad, and experience suffering if there were no real flowers on Sunday. So they decide to take over the ordering and delivery of the flowers.

On the surface, this seems like a harmless change. But if you follow this kind of behavior out to its conclusion, what happens is this: A congregation ends up with a few people over functioning, trying to exercise the gifts of all the members, and a bunch of other people who feel less than important, because they don’t feel like their gifts are important. Another eventual problem with this is that those members of the church who are exercising many gifts at the same time are in real danger of burnout.

The solution is for each member of the church to be prayerfully committed to use their gift in the congregation. Each member functions as God has designed it to. Then, the church will look like it is supposed to. Just like Steve would look like a normal person if he hadn’t wished all of his members to do everything!

I’m not saying that each person needs to only do one thing in the congregation and that’s it. Everyone’s situation is unique, and every person’s gifting is unique. I am saying this. “Take care and have caution if you either do not exercise any gifts for the good of the church or if you exercise more than one.

If we all serve the church in ways that are consistent with our gifting, and enjoy our diversity of gifts and uniqueness, The congregation will be set up well to worship God, make disciples, and join God in working for peace and justice in the world. We are one body, made of many different members.