The human form is so utterly beautiful that it has become a currency for our world. Its original design was made for God’s glory and for the blessing of each other. God ordained our bodies to be one of the primary ways He moves in this world. It is in and through this temple of His (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 12:7-27) that we are to carry out the callings He has put on our lives. He uses physical bodies to store up our giftings, to love one another in tangible ways, and to shepherd His creation as caretakers of earthly reality.
After the Fall, though, we have taken this beautiful vessel and used it for our glory and gain. Far too often, we have allowed the Evil One to transform it into a tool of his.
Most people do not even recognize their engagement with this struggle. It is a normalized undercurrent that only reveals itself through our trembling, exposed bodies. If you look at most celebrities, many use some form of this currency. Very rarely do you see someone who is overweight or average looking as a superstar. There are definite exceptions, thankfully, but not many. Indeed, very rarely do you see someone who stands on their talent alone—they are always dressed to draw more and more people in with their flesh.
I, personally, am amazed that women, in particular, agree to this. As someone who calls herself a Christian feminist (someone who believes in the inherent, equal value of women before God), I am so disheartened to see beautiful, talented women singing in their underwear or even less to make a statement. Indeed, their talent is enough--it really is-- yet no one has told them this sweet truth.
Not to leave out men, I see this happening with men who are obsessed with their bodies, showing off their muscles, and going tight-shirted and/or shirtless before others. It is like they are screaming with their bodies, “See! I am worthy. I am attractive. I matter.” Their pain is tangible, as well.
Then, with both sexes so tangled up in this, unbounded messiness follows. Both are trying to use themselves as currency to get ahead in the world’s eyes as well as in romantic relationships. Yet, flesh as currency always runs out over time; there is always someone more attractive, younger, or whose flesh is more valuable to the world.
Indeed, thinking this way about flesh has become so prominent that it is often described by a business term-- “assets.” An asset is most often used in the business world to describe something of value and is often monetary in nature. We have started using the vocabulary of goods and money to describe our very flesh. It is so wild to comprehend this once we step out of ourselves and see this phenomenon occurring!
After all this, we are forced to ask ourselves how we are, indeed, using our flesh before others. In my life and as a product of my culture, I am not at all immune to this, nor will I ever be. As a young college graduate, I loved sun dresses, but they were often too short. I had unease about it, and God slowly convicted and challenged me with these very thoughts on flesh. From that point on, as God revealed my motives, how I mediate my flesh before the world has radically changed.
All that I wear has come under scrutiny now because I do not want to lead with my flesh ever again. For me, it has affected my bathing suits, length of shorts and skirts, tightness of clothes, and depth of collars. I am not going to tell you any hard and fast rules on this because there are none—some people might think I am not modest enough even though I may be considered overly modest by others. What I will say is—look at your heart and how that is reflected in what you are wearing. Are you leading with your flesh or not?
I also want to mention our current obsession with our bodies in the exercise arena. I have no problem with high-impact, endurance sports such as triathlons or Crossfit and all sports in general. But, what I will say is unless these activities are done in light of Him, they can lead to imbalance and focus us inordinately on our body and its individual strength. That focus can then become obsession that leads to an unhealthy body currency.
Instead, our bodies should be the place that we cherish and keep healthy because it is one of the most powerful vehicles of His love to the world. Exercise should be a way that we honor God by making our bodies capable of performing His callings and service through us. Thus, for those gifted and called to sports and body development, may it be for the purpose of growing faith and endurance, knowing that none of us are powerful and strong except that He alone has given us the will (and maybe the genetics) to be. And, may our bodily strength be poured out for Him and not for attention.
Bottom line, the gift of flesh is powerful and can be used in mighty ways. It is my heart’s desire that we contemplate how we use it and how that is blessing God and others. Ultimately, my hope is that when we walk away from someone, it will not be our flesh they remember. Instead, may it be the tangible fragrance of the One who formed us. (Genesis 2:7-8) As Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.” (2:14)
Lastly, flesh is only one of many, many currencies we all utilize. I think intelligence, parenting, spirituality, and job success are just some of the many other currency forms we struggle with when encountering people. Flesh may not be one that you really are bothered by, but you may secretly really want everyone to think you are the smartest person in the room. Or, maybe you want every other family to envy your parenting skills and successful kids? Maybe you are too proud of your newest promotion? Maybe you are so excited by the money in your investment and bank accounts—if only the world could see what you have? Maybe you are proud of your “I can never be shaken” faith and how spiritual you are? The list is endless.
What is it for you? What is your currency? What do you use to prove your worthiness to others? These are questions that I am constantly wrestling with in an effort not to posture before the world but to be totally and simply Amy whose identity is found in Jesus Christ. All of the unique qualities that make up “me” are simply vessels for His working in the world through me. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Whatever it is that I “do” or “possess,” it is all to be poured out before Him and is ultimately His anyway.
At the end of the day, if your/my identity is wrapped up in any other currency than His, we are heading for a bankruptcy of spirit. As much as we can and are able, may we not use any currency except that of our brokenness, our humility, and the sole claim we have in the greatness of our Savior, Jesus—His life, death, and resurrection. May He be what we leave to all we meet.