There is an old folktale that I’ve been thinking about lately. Its origin is unknown, and it has various versions depending on who you ask and what region you’re from. Here is the one I’m most familiar with:
“A holy man asked the Lord to show him the difference between heaven and hell. The Lord led him to two doors. Behind the first door was a group or people sitting around a large, round table. There was a pot of stew in the middle of the table, and each person had a long wooden spoon strapped to their arm, so they could reach into the pot of stew. However, the spoon handles were so long that the people couldn’t get the stew into their mouths after scooping it out of the bowl. As a result, they were emaciated, weak, and angry. ‘This is hell,’ the Lord said to the man. Then, the Lord opened the second door. Inside was the exact same scenario as the first—people around a large, round table, with a pot of stew in the middle, and long wooden spoons attached to their arms. But this time, the people were laughing, well fed, and happy. ‘This is heaven,’ said the Lord. ‘I’m confused, Lord,’ the man said. ‘What changed between the first room and the second?’ The Lord replied, ‘In hell, everyone is concerned with their own food and their own survival. They don’t work together, so they starve. But in heaven, the people have learned that although they cannot feed themselves, they can use the long handles of their spoons to reach across the table and feed each other. And so they eat their fill and are happy.”
Wow. What a powerful illustration of that it means to be TOGETHER as believers. The Bible is very clear about our role as people who were created to be in community with each other. In 1 Corinthians 12:7, we see that, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” Likewise, in Ephesians 4:12−13 the Bible says, “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the Body of Christ.” So, not only are we all placed on this earth to be in fellowship TOGETHER, but the gifts and talents the Lord gives us are to be used to “feed” each other. The New King James version of these two verses says that our gifts are for “the profit of all” and the “equipping of the saints”.
We can look at this another way. If I am not working on my relationship with God so that I am right with Him, and grasping hold of the gifts He wants to grow in me, then I am “cheating” you out of the things the Lord wants me to “feed” into you as I grow. The same is true of you—if you aren’t working on growing in the Lord, then you can’t “feed” me with your gifts and talents. In the end, not only do we miss out individually if we don’t grow in the Lord; we limit each other corporately as the Body of Christ.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be fed, and I want to feed those around me! I pray that as we work on growing TOGETHER as a church, we’ll find ourselves feeding into each other, and the result will be a powerful season of fellowship, support, love, and care for each other. I’m glad to be on this journey with each of you, as we discover the many ways the Lord wants to advance our church in this season.