I feel that I need to revisit this question because although I feel we are getting somewhere with the answers so far, somehow I am not feeling there is a complete answer.

Let's look at 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 which talks about unity and diversity in the body and bullet pointing verses 22-26, the Bible says

  • Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
  • The parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.
  • The parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while
  • our presentable parts need no special treatment.

But God has put the body together,

  • Giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that
  • There should be no division in the body, but that
  • Its parts should have equal concern for each other.

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

This to me is an interesting passage and although I can see the different interpretation (with thanks) through the answer from @Julie below (we can also interpret the passage with regard to members of a body of people) here is my brief interpretation as I see it bullet point by bullet point.

  • Weak parts of the body are just as indispensable as strong parts because without them, the body will not be whole (verse 14), and
  • We need to give special honour to the parts of the body we think are less honourable, and the parts deemed unpresentable are to be treated with special modesty because we should treat all parts as equals (verse 25).

Although the last part of that sounds a little strange to me right now, but for the moment, here comes my question because verse 26 seems to contradict itself within the same verse.

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Let's say, you are treating your feet with disdain. According to verse 26 this dishonour will cause the rest of the body to suffer with them. At the same time, while honouring some parts of the body, the rest of the body rejoices with them, which as I read verse 26, this includes the feet which are receiving dishonour.

I think I can understand how the feet can be rejoicing in the honour other parts are receiving as the feet will be behaving as a part of the whole body and will be pleased for the honoured parts.

Now, how can the parts suffering from the dishonour suffered by the feet, also be rejoicing in the honour of those parts which are honoured?

3 Answers 3


I think there may be another interpretation of 1 Corinthians 12:26 [all verses quoted from NASB]

And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

The entire passage you refer to from Corinthians is closely related to Romans 12 (see verses 3-5 in particular). Romans 12:15 similarly says:

Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

The Corinthians passage is immediately followed by the great treatise on love. The Romans passage also emphasizes love. Romans 12:10

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor

I don't see a definitive link in 1 Corinthians 12:26 showing that the suffering was caused by the dishonor of another. I think it may be referring to suffering in general, which brings to mind 2 Corinthians 1:4

...so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

It is interesting that the root word for honor [Strongs 5092 "timh"] in 1 Corinthians 12:23

and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable.

appears to be closely related to the root word for honor [Strongs 5091 "timaw"] in 1 Timothy 5:3 which is clearly used in context of caring for widows in the church.

Honor widows who are widows indeed.

If honor may be purposed similarly in 1 Corinthians, then one way we bestow more abundant honor on those we deem less honorable would be to care for them, especially as both 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 deal with using our gifts in the body. 1 Corinthians 12:25 says the purpose of giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked is:

so that there be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

So, bottom line, I don't believe we can assume 1 Corinthians 12:26 is referring to a less honorable member being dishonorable. In fact, the word dishonorable is not mentioned in the passage.

In light of 1 Corinthians 12:24,

...But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked

the less honorable member may simply stand for a spiritually immature Christian who is in need of discipleship.

If I am right in this conclusion, I believe the conflict you present would be resolved.


Verse 26 reads (RSV):

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

I presume that the contradiction you see here is that all members are somehow suffering and rejoicing at the same time. I think this might be reading too much into the verse.

Paul's message here, I think, is a continuation of the exhortation in v.25:

That there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

All suffering together if one member suffers refers to having compassion on one another - especially the lowly. Rejoicing together if one member is honored refers to not envying the position or fortune of others. One Greek commentary in antiquity explains:

Let us all then, considering these things, imitate the love of these members; let us not in any wise do the contrary, trampling on the miseries of our neighbor and envying his good things. For this is the part of madmen and persons beside themselves. Just as he that digs out his own eye hath displayed a very great proof of senselessness; and he that devours his own hand exhibits a clear evidence of downright madness.*

* John Chrysostom (c.349-407), Homily XXXI on 1 Corinthians


The issue is not "honor" per se but rather "recognition" and "visibility". The Corinthians were apparently given cultural values such as:

  • celebrity worship
  • visibility
  • fame

Paul was trying to get them to see that not everyone was a star, nor should they be. Yes, apostles were stars but their high profile gift was not for everyone. In fact, some in the body were "private parts" that had to be concealed for God's purposes. Genitalia were certainly important even though they weren't given sermons from the pulpits!

That's the general idea.

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