Luke 10

In Luke 10:38-42, Martha is doing the expected work of a woman in her culture; Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning from him.

Using the lens of honor and shame, Werner Mischke points out that  “ Mary sat at the Lord’s feet. She physically expressed her recognition of the honor of Jesus. In the economy of honor and shame, feet have a particular meaning. Feet are among the least honorable parts of the human body—in contrast, for example, to the right hand. This honor/shame contrast may be observed in Psalm 110:1—“The LORD says to my Lord: Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The meaning in Mary’s action of sitting at Christ’s feet was profound and plain in their honor-shame culture—and surely was clear to Martha.”[1]

In addition, Mary was listening, she gave honour to Jesus by doing nothing except listening in humility. “Martha was distracted with much serving.” Martha was getting things done. She became preoccupied with herself. Mischke asks: “could it be that Martha’s service was a smokescreen for her preoccupation with herself? No wonder Jesus said, ‘Mary has chosen the good portion’.”[2]

Ultimately, Mary gave honour to Jesus by her humility and was praised by him. “This overturns one of the classic features of the honor and shame culture, namely, that honor and shame is a “limited good.” … Here in the story of Mary and Martha, it is Mary who willingly ‘loses’ self-honor by giving honor to Jesus – and yet, in the end, instead of losing, she gains a compliment from Jesus; Mary gains honor from the Lord.”[3] Rather than trying to impress Jesus by her service, Mary gave immense honor to him by sitting at his feet.


[2] Ibid., p23

[3] Ibid., p23-24

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