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The Relational Economy: Currency - Part 1

  • Hudson Russell Davis Writer, musician, seminary student
  • Updated Jul 28, 2011
The Relational Economy: Currency - Part 1

There is no accounting for the way the heart informs the mind, no telling when the heart will suggest to the mind the most absurd of things. This because emotions are more powerful than pure reason and love itself a most absurd notion. 

“And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment” (Luke 7:37).

The idea of a loving relationship is the joining of two people who have enough differences and sin to fuel a cosmic war. A loving relationship is one in which two wary warriors, so used to serving self, so used to winning, are expected to live peacefully, sacrificially, and selflessly together.

“She stood behind him at his feet …”

We all want to know that we are valued for who we are and that who we are is enough to gain a relationship. We want to know that what we have to offer has not depreciated such that we will be found severely wanting—or broke—at the time of calling. We want to know that what we have to bring is truly “worth something”—that someone else values it. 

 “… weeping …”

Despite the greater spiritual nature of the relational economy, we are mystified by the currency of relationships. The currency (the medium of exchange) is very difficult to discern. Even when two people value the same things it seems as though they hold distinctly different tenders.

“… and began to bathe his feet with her tears ...”

This person expects a dollar—but that person is holding a Jamaican dollar—no good. She offers a Hryvnia while he accepts only Francs. That one is sweet in a Dinar sort of way, but that person is more deeply affected by an EC Dollar. I am from the Caribbean and I cannot tell you what relational currency is preferred there. None of us can possibly travel with Dollar, Shilling, Lira, Manta, Rupee, Pound, Tala, Won, Dinar, Quetzal, and Euro. And maybe this is the reason we are all so burdened. Life is sometimes spent desperately trying to understand and produce the acceptable currency and often disappointed.

“… and to dry them with her hair.”

Of course, there IS the world’s relational currency, power, prosperity, and sex appeal. In the world, if you have what it takes and spend liberally, success is nearly guaranteed. Despite the wasteland of broken relationships, people are lined up to date, marry, or just “hook up.” They spend all they have to get all they can but in the end they are empty and alone. Surely the Christian scene is different. IT MUST BE. And if we are the people we should be, it will be.

“Then she continued kissing his feet …” 

We are more than the swing of our hips, the cut of our pecs, more than the length and color of our hair. In fact we are more than hair. We are more than brown eyes, grey eyes, blue eyes, or green eyes. Any fool could see that. We are more than tall, short, portly, or rail thin, more than weight and height. We are more than the size of our bank accounts, our investments, more than our prospects. God knows these things are not all we have to offer. God knows they are not the currency of God’s relational economy. 

“… and anointing them with the ointment” (Luke 7:38).

We sense that if we are liked our value goes up. Then we have more to spend. We also recognize that if we are not liked our value goes down. We then have less to spend. That system is as volatile and as capricious as the Evil One who spawned it. I suspect Mary brought those jars with her to curry favor and poured them out only when she realized they would not be enough. She poured them out when she realized that they were not needed. Perhaps her past relationships had left her hollow. Relationships can do that.

“… the Pharisee … said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet …’”

We pour ourselves out to people because at the end of the day the only currency we really have is ourselves. Some people approach relationships with jars of self-worth offered to the one they love. Others bring half empty bottles leaking their need. We are all broken. We all walk with a limp. What we want to know, need to know, is that we are valued for who we are. What we need to know is that what we bring to the table will be enough.

“… he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him …”

What we bring IS enough. What we have IS good enough. Our currency in the Christian relational economy is the person that God has made and is making of us. This means that the person coming to us can always expect a return on their investment. But, they must also be willing to accept our limp. They must be able to see more than the world sees, more than hair, eyes, pecs, or power and position. What Simon did not know is that Jesus knew very well what kind of woman Mary was.

“—that she [was] a sinner” (Luke 7:39).

Jesus knew exactly who she was. He knows exactly who you are—that you are a sinner. 

We who are children of God are valued beyond measure and are worthy of any relationship. This is the truth of who we are. This doesn’t mean that everyone will recognize us. It doesn’t mean that just any two Christians will be a great match. This understanding of our position, our relation to the Father, means that we have the currency to enter the relational economy. This should give us confidence. While Mary thought she was as rich as the jars she brought, JESUS KNEW MARY AS MORE!!!! While we may think we are as rich or as poor as the body we possess; Jesus knows we are more.

“Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon …”

For now, forget that other relationship. Let me ask you, does Jesus KNOW you? It is possible to read most of what I write as applicable to all relationships. And perhaps that works. However, I am convinced that without being transformed all we can produce in this broken world is one broken relationship after another. I am convinced that those who operate in the realm of the things they can bring to a relationship walk in darkness. 

“‘Do you see this woman?’”

The physical matters, personality matters, and religious depth is important, but unless YOU KNOW the Lord and he KNOWS you, you are a broken person heading towards just another meaningless collision. Your every transaction is in lempira while the spiritual person you pursue accepts only Godliness with contentment, which is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6). 

“I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet …”

“Within this relational economy we make our plea for love using our very hearts as collateral. If the deal fails we suffer loss. If the loss is great we may incur a deficit. If the deficit endures it may follow us into marriage.” It is RISKY to offer your heart, but who you are IS your currency. The other stuff, the physical, psychological, religious/spiritual, can be duplicated, even faked. That is why you DO NOT operate according to this medium of exchange alone. 

“… but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair” (Luke 7:44).

You are more than the curve of your hips and I am never defined by the cut of my chin. We are more than blue eyes, more than tall, short, portly, or rail thin, more than weight and height. So bring what you have, bring who you are and spend carefully. Who you are is valuable. Be transformed into Christ’s image. Christ-likeness is accepted worldwide.


Hudson Russell Davis is a Ph.D. candidate and adjunct professor of theology at Saint Louis University.

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