"Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" (Romans 11:33)
No matter how hard we try, we will never fully understand or explain God. He is infinite; we are finite.
And so we try to express concepts in words, which have limits, but those limits draw boundaries that do not actually exist.
And the best we can do is draw word pictures, create comparisons.
And so Paul introduces the concept of spiritual gifts and their use in the church through an analogy. He describes the church as the body of Christ.
Now we know from experience that we need every part of our body, but we don't normally think about it.
When I was a kid, and I can't imagine why we talked about this, but we did, we used to speculate on which of our five senses we would most hate to lose. We generally focused on sight and hearing, but someone always points out how much we need touch, taste, and smell. I know people who have lost those senses, and it's true. We need all our senses.
We know how much we need our legs, our arms, but most of us don't think much about our abdominal muscles. Until we pull our backs. We don't think about our shoulders, until we hurt one and find no sleeping positions are comfortable. Imagine your life without thumbs.
Every part plays a role. We just don't think about all the parts. And that's okay.
The thing is, in the body of Christ, we do need to think about them and remember them and value them.
It's not okay to dismiss the big toe or the thumbs or the abdominal muscles. It's not okay to dismiss the sense of touch or taste.
When we talk about the body of Christ and the various parts, we're talking about people.
People who are valuable. People who are essential if the body of Christ is to function properly.
And yet we do it all the time. We make legs and arms and tongues more valuable than fingers and toes, and that's not right.
"If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, ever part rejoices with it." (12:26)
Any time we make value judgments, deciding which parts important and which parts aren't, we violate the second greatest commandment.
All our spiritual gifts are given "for the common good" (12:7). Every gift, every role, is essential.
When God gives us a role to play, when he gives us a spiritual gift, it is not so that we will be honored or appreciated, but in order to glorify His name, to strengthen the church body.
And so Paul introduces "the most excellent way."