No Part is Important on its Own
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. - 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
Reflection: If there’s one thing that gets my blood boiling it’s the belief that workers are in low-wage jobs because they are lazy, uneducated, unskilled or some combination of all three. This is exemplified in one online comment I read recently:
“Fast food, retail, etc. These are jobs for teens and uneducated people who decided, for whatever reason not to go to school or do something to eventually get a better, higher paying job or carrer. [Sic] This is called unskilled labor. You are expendable and replaceable. If you have worked for a low paying employer for years and have not climbed the ladder or quit, that is your own fault.”
I barely know where to start in addressing this kind of ignorance and fallacy. When searching for some guidance I remembered one of my favorite biblical passages from I Corinthians 12. Here it is from The Message:
14 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. …
19-24 But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own.
To me this passage directly challenges the idea of “unskilled labor”. To God there is no skilled labor or unskilled labor; it is all necessary labor. It is all necessary for the continued participation in God’s creation.
As I write this, our first floor bathroom is mid-remodel. We are perhaps one week away from completion, but it is still useless to us right now. So many things need to happen in a specific order for everything to come together. If someone were to ask us what the most important thing is in order to have a successful bathroom when everything’s done, we’d just laugh in his or her face. As if ONE thing is more important than another when they are all so dependent.
Similarly, I wonder how we can begin to judge one job or career as more valuable than another if they are all necessary for the purpose of continuing God’s creation.
I realize our society has placed a monetary value on labor in order for business to continue as usual, however it is up to us to ensure that monetary value doesn’t become conflated with importance or significance. Lest any body part starts thinking it’s a “monster” (e.g. Fast Food CEOs) we need to bust out the monster repellant and insist that “No part is important on its own.”
By Jana Winch, Interfaith Worker Justice
Prayer: Creator God, Thank you for entrusting us with your creation. Please help us remember that we are all as equally significant in its continuation, and give us the courage to compel others do the same.