Scripture: Luke 10:38-42 (CEB)
While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message. By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.” The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”

“It won’t be taken away from her…” How many things are taken away from women, or not even given to them in the first place, that limit their power and ability to live self-sufficiently? Education has long been a privilege granted to boys and men, denied to girls and women around the world. Denying a girl the ability to read and write, to have access to history and art and social studies, to learn math and science, creates a community wherein she is dependent on those who “know more” than she does.

So how subversive, how radical is it that Jesus encourages and empowers these two sisters, Mary and Martha, to listen and learn? Martha does what she had always been taught her role was, and that is to serve others. She is not doing anything wrong. She is not doing anything bad. She is doing what she’s been taught she is supposed to do – what she has always done.

But Mary, she is stepping outside of her prescribed role to serve and she takes on the role of student with Jesus as her teacher. Can you blame Martha for being annoyed? Her sister was not doing what she was “supposed” to be doing and Martha was left carrying the additional work. And when she asks Jesus to intervene, he offers some gentle coaching and tries to teach her a new way.

Because he knows, and Mary knows, that the message he shares with them is a gift that will remain with them, even long after he is gone. A gift that no one can take away from them. A gift that contains in it the power to make the world a more just and equitable place for them and for the women who follow them. Now that is a message worth listening to.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Martha was distracted. What distracts you from learning or gaining some new skill or knowledge?
  2. Think of a heroine in history who used education to make a better world for those around her.
  3. How do you think the conversation (between Jesus and Martha? between Mary and Martha?) continues after the story ends?
  4. Mary could not have learned from Jesus if Martha had not first “welcomed him as a guest.” What are the ways you, like Martha, can support education and educators in your community?

Creator God, you put no limits on how much we can learn and what we do with our knowledge. Thank you for those who came before us, creating a path to education. Help us to take in those things that cannot be taken away from us and to support others who try to do the same. Amen.