“Unpresentable” Body Parts Should be Hidden.
The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater care, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.1 Corinthians 12:22-25
Like many passages in the New Testament, this one is a metaphor for unity in the church and for how each person plays a unique part in the makeup of the body of Christ.
However, as these verses have been wrongly used to shame our physical bodies, let us dig into the idea that some parts of our bodies are “unpresentable.”
A Few Different Perspectives
What do we think these parts are? Our 21st century western perspective would jump to the conclusion that the passage must be speaking of breasts and genitals.
If we lived in another place or time, however, we might think our ankles or our ears, or even our eyes were “unpresentable,” while having no concern with exposing the entirety of the remainder of our bodies!
The Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary informs us that the phrase “less presentable members” refers to “those limbs which we conceal from sight in accordance with custom, but in the exposure of which there would be no indecency.”
Heinrich Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament explains that Paul was referring primarily to the inner organs, (the intestines, the brain, the heart) but allows for a reference to the delicate external organs (ears, eyes, genitals) as well.
Modern pietists might “strain a gnat,” or “hunt for a needle” in this haystack to proof-text the idea that some body parts are worse than others, but in this search, they’ll only find acres of hay.
Our true focus should be that God has called the entire body: good [see Genesis 1:31].
What, then, does “unpresentable” mean?
If one is going out in a sandstorm, it is smart to cover one’s face.
It is “unpresentable” to the environmental conditions at the time. If you are going into a very cold environment, you will want to cover all of your exposed flesh. In that situation, it is “less presentable.”
Our brains, our hearts, our lungs— to each of these, God has given more honor by enclosing them within our bodies. They are “unpresentable,” but “more honorable.”
It is only our culture, feeding on customs and the passage of time, that has wrongly concluded that our genitalia or areolae are dishonorable, unpresentable parts and that they exist in a state of continuous shame.
If we continue to pass down faulty information and myths to our children, these meaningless traditions will continue… until someone asks a simple question: Why?
Before we say, “because God said so,” or “because the Bible said so,” we should ask another simple question: Really?
The issue is not that our reproductive organs are inherently bad. Sometimes, they just get in the way!
When not being exposed to harsh elements or strapped down because of exercise or work, our vulnerable external body parts are just as beautiful and “presentable” as anything else.
The Christian walk provides life and freedom. Next time you have the opportunity to bare your skin to the sunshine, let it beam! God is smiling on all of your created parts.