Women: Setting the Record Straight

Historically the world and the church have not consistently recognized or honored the role of women in society or the church. But when Jesus came onto the scene, He did not accept such practices and definitively rejected these regressive attitudes outright.

Still, until very recently, many churches have built a social hierarchy that limits women’s capacity and their options for service within the church.

It should go without saying, but men and women are different. Different doesn’t mean one is more valuable than the other or inferior to the other. From the beginning, men and women have been equals.

When God created woman, He did so by putting man into a deep sleep and removing a rib from his side.

He did not remove a bone from his foot that she might be trampled upon, nor from his head to be dominated by but out of his side to walk as partners.

Unfortunately, as time passed, ideas were developed and reinforced, creating an unsanctioned philosophy on the role and place of women.

In Luke 10:38-42, Luke conveys a brief but important with Jesus breaking traditional customs regarding women.

The first thing we read in Luke 10 is that Jesus entered a village and ran into Martha. In first-century Hebrew culture, hospitality was a primary tenet.

After welcoming Him into their home, the next thing we learn is that Martha has a younger sister named Mary, who is not helping.

Do you have a younger sibling? Can you feel Martha’s pain? Jesus will use this interaction to break tradition and reset the value of women.

Because Mary was a woman and there were guests to serve, it was culturally expected she help her sister with the preparations. Mary and Martha have been trained for such an occasion as this.

Every Hebrew child began their education at age six until ten by learning the Torah. At the age of ten, formal education would end for boys and girls, and the girls would then learn from their mothers how to manage a home and raise a family.

Martha’s objection to Mary’s actions reveals two things about Martha.

#1 Martha’s service is out of obligation.

Serving without the proper attitude turns our service into an act of obligation which can be fertile ground for dissension.

#2 Martha longs for something greater than her obligatory duties.

Martha is doing what tradition demands, but she desires something more.

Luke 10:40 says Martha was distracted with much serving. The word translated as distracted means to draw in different ways at the same time.

Martha is caught in the middle of what she knows to do and what she wants to do. She can’t do both, so she chooses to do what she believed was expected of her.

Mary wasn’t picking up on Martha’s hits by randomly banging pots, but maybe she would listen to Jesus, and of course, He would side with Martha on this matter.

Martha went to Jesus and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

  • Are there duties, activities, and cultural practices that have taken precedence over faith-living?
  • Are those actions impacting spiritual growth or passion?

As Christians, everything we do must be filtered through God’s Word, or it will draw us from God. Even good things can be distractions if they’re not the main thing.

Jesus does not devalue or reject her service and hospitality, but He is correcting her for putting tradition above all else when there is a better choice to be made. Tradition isn’t bad, but it must be subject to truth.

Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet may appear as a minor detail of her location as He teaches, but it was much more than that.

Sitting or bowing at the feet of a Rabbi implied that you were His student/follower.

In Acts 22:3, the Apostle Paul shares how he was educated at the feet of Gamaliel, a great first-century Rabbi.

Mary is taking the position of a disciple. She breaks all cultural norms and traditions by sitting at Jesus’ feet, which is not only taboo but forbidden.

Jesus would not be influenced by unauthorized, misguided traditions that would keep any segment of society from following Him.

In this situation, Jesus is restoring a woman’s value and place in His kingdom, as determined at creation.

As you fast-forward beyond the resurrection, there were women who played vital roles in establishing and advancing the church. Therefore, to insist that women could only serve in a minor or behind-the-scenes role in the church does not align with Jesus’ teaching or actions.

Galatians 3 sets the foundation for our equality in Jesus and is the bedrock for all matters of faith living.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Jesus reset the social hierarchy the world and church misconstrued and returned value and honor to women.

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