Do women have the right to keep their “good portion”?
“…Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
In the complementarian Christian community, there is a lot of pressure to keep women away from a place that doesn’t belong to them. Because of the teaching that there is a “biblical manhood” and “biblical womanhood,” and the way we follow Jesus depends on our gender, many have been focused on dividing and protecting the man’s portion as if something has been given to men alone. Is this really biblical? Is there really something that belongs to men alone that need to be held back from women?
In Luke 10 the Lord Jesus encountered pressure to remove Mary from sitting at his feet as one of the disciples in order for her to take the place of a worker in the home. His response to Martha is quite revealing about the Lord’s view of women.
Luke 10:41–42 (NASB)
41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;
42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Regarding the place of a disciple, Jesus said that there is only one thing that is necessary. Please note that Jesus did not say that there are two things that are necessary – one for males and one for females. The one thing that is absolutely necessary is to sit as a disciple at His feet. There was no division between what is necessary for males or females.
The next thing that we can see from Jesus’ words is that Mary herself had chosen the good part. The Greek word used here is eklegomai which means chosen for oneself. Mary had the opportunity to choose for herself and what she chose as a disciple at Jesus’ feet is the good portion. This is a share or part in the opportunity and responsibility to learn and then do the work of a disciple. It was Mary’s own choice to be a disciple and to have her portion alongside the rest of the disciples.
Jesus then reveals something that is extremely important. He said that what she has received (her portion as a disciple) shall not be taken away from her. The Greek word for “take away” is aphaireo and it means to have something taken away by force. Jesus is saying that her portion as one of the disciples, which rightfully belongs to Mary and which is a good thing, shall not be removed from her by force.
Mary’s faith in Jesus caused her to understand the gospel and to do the work of preparing the body of Jesus for burial as an act of her faith.
Mark 14:6–9 (NASB)
6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me.
7 “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me.
8 “She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial.
9 “Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”
John tells us that this woman was Mary.
John 12:3 (NASB) Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
Mary, the one who sat at the feet of Jesus and who received her share right along with the men, is shown to have been prepared by the teachings of Jesus to accept and believe in his death when the other disciples did not yet understand. Jesus said that her work of preparing his body for burial would be linked to the gospel and its message throughout the world. This portion will not be taken from her.
Another Mary also received her portion of the gospel on resurrection day.
John 20:15–18 (NASB)
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’ ”
18 Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
Mary Magdalene was the first one commissioned to give the gospel to the other disciples and the Lord specifically chose to appear to a woman first.
But there are those in the church who have made it their own business to take away what has been given to women. While women were given the place as disciples sitting and learning at the feet of Jesus, some in the body of Christ deny women the ability to learn the deep things of God.
John MacArthur’s The Master’s Seminary denies women the opportunity to learn. The deep things of God are taken away from women, and no opportunity is given them to choose to follow the Lord Jesus in this deep learning as women are denied entrance into John MacArthur’s seminary.
Also, complementarians such as Ray Ortlund deny that God gives a calling to women that entrusts them with the gospel. “There is a grandeur to every man’s ministry“, Ortlund says and the gospel ministry that men have been given shows that they “have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.” No limitations on men at all as Ortlund says “I don’t minister for his approval; I minister with his approval. I can go for it.” But for women, there is no such approval in Ortlund’s eyes.
Is it true that only men have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel? Or have men usurped by force what has also been given to women? The first disciples refused to believe a woman who obeyed the Lord and who declared the gospel to them and today men are tempted to take away a woman’s portion by closing the door in her face. There are many things that she is not allowed to learn and many places that she is not allowed to go. However, is this the way of the Master?