Luke 10: 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
I have heard these verses and teachings on them since my youth. The church I grew up in had a Dorcas Circle (we giggled), a Ruth Circle, and a Mary-Martha Circle.* There was a Martha-Mary Circle at the Lutheran church we attended when first married. Pretty much all the women in these church groups were Marthas, and they knew it, but tried hard to absorb the biblical lesson and take it to heart. They knew they had been corrected by their Lord and should reconsider their priorities. I have heard this lesson for over 50 years. I think generations of women deserve credit for the humility of noticing that their great efforts, that they know (quite accurately) are all that is keeping any particular congregation afloat, are still not quite the real point. Sitting, learning, worship are more important.
I have never once heard this lesson applied to men, neither by women in an accusing fashion (being motivated by guilt feelings likely prevents this) nor by men making the connection that it applies to them as well. Men show up to build steps over at the shelter, or paint walls at the soup kitchen, or mow the lawn at the church or spread salt in winter. They go over to the church camp and repair cabins or cut down trees. That is Martha-thinking. I absolutely fall into this myself, even though I think much more than most men about teaching and learning and understanding Christ. I also think in terms of making coffee, setting up chairs, packing food for the Saturday distribution, slicing cheese, taking a turn in nursery, all of which are Martha-thinking. What do we call it for men, Matthew and Marty?
*Circles were a combination of age cohorts and family tradition. The "younger women" might be part of Esther Circle, but a few of the younger women might be in Deborah Circle because their mother was, and their grandmother had been. There would have been an interesting sociological study that some graduate student at Gustavus Adolphus, Vanderbilt, or other denominational college could have done in the 70s and 80s, but that was not interesting to them then. There was enormous data from brief interviews or even 10-question printed surveys mailed out to a thousand congregations, right there for the taking. Much more valuable than asking women what they thought of Germaine Greer's admonishment that they should taste their menstrual blood, which hasn't had - how shall I put this - the long-term staying power and relevance that other issues have. It was valuable general information about women and group organisation independent of men, but it slid away. This is why fashion is bad in academia. It causes one to overlook all the important information in favor of the academic fads.