The Good Portion:
An Encouragement to Women Considering the M.A. Program
One of the perennial questions posed to every student is, “So, what do you plan to do after graduation?” As a non-traditional student who began the Master of Arts program in Exegesis and Theology as a thirty-seven year old stay-home mom of five, my answer isn’t impressive by the world’s standards. I don’t plan to pursue a formal position in ministry. I have no career goals. I plan to keep doing the work God has put right in front of me by serving my family, serving my church family, writing for the wider church as God allows, and doing it for the glory of God.
But the question I have received more frequently than “What do you plan to do after graduation?” is the question, “So, why did you sign up for the program?” The question of intent has been posed much more than the question of utility.
Of the many compelling scenes in Luke’s gospel, the scene of Martha complaining to Jesus about her sister, Mary, ranks high. And what was the complaint she lodged? “And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me’” (Luke 10:40). While Martha was “distracted with much serving” Mary was sitting at Jesus’s feet, “listening to his teaching” (Luke 10:39). Jesus’s response tells us something about how we ought to prioritize our lives. “But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41–42).
And that is the answer to why I signed up for the MA program at Bethlehem College & Seminary. I want the good portion. I cannot seem to ever get enough of it. I want to listen and learn from Jesus. I know that that kind of learning won’t be taken away from me.
So, when women ask me if they should consider the MA, I almost always say, “You should consider it!” And here are a few qualified reasons to do so:
1. Consider pursuing the MA program if you want “the good portion” of learning Christ, not because you want to contribute your own portion.
There is significant cultural pressure for any given woman to act to advance “team women,” as though the body of Christ is mainly composed of special interest groups that need their voices elevated and their constituency represented. But, we know that what we really need is to receive from him. It’s not our womanhood or our life experience that illuminates the Scriptures—it’s the very Spirit of God who makes Christ known through his living and active Book.
We also know that Christ’s body is one, so we take delight in loving and honoring our brothers and sisters in him. We long for the joy of all peoples through Christ. Our deepest desire is always to have Jesus at the center––never ourselves, or women in general. Only when Jesus is supreme and his Word is exalted above ours, will we flourish in him.
2. Consider pursuing the MA program if you want to be better equipped by God in the circumstances and life God has given you, not because you want an escape hatch from them.
Life is full of difficulties. Whether you’re a mom or an employee, a teacher or a barista. The goal of the MA program is not mainly training for a particular vocation, although it may open up certain opportunities. The goal is that you would be equipped and discipled further into Christ, so that in any and every situation, you will abound in him.
We may wonder how parsing Greek verbs helps us disciple our twelve-year-old, or equips us to make better coffee, but, by God’s grace it actually can. Nothing done in the discipline and instruction of the Lord is wasted. It is fuel for every aspect of life. Learning Greek may the most valuable thing I’ve gained from the program—not because I now can explain all the hard passages of the Bible—quite the contrary, I see the difficulties more clearly than ever before. But it’s valuable because a thin film (called translation) has been removed between myself and the Lord I love so dearly. It’s a delight to be even a millimeter nearer the sound of his voice.
3. Consider pursuing the MA program if the godly people around you are encouraging you to do so, not because you’re convinced you know better than the Christians who might issue caution.
It’s easy to think that a decision to enroll in a Masters program is something that we must figure out by examining the navel lint in our belly buttons. But, in reality, this is a community decision. If you’re married, your husband should want you to do it. If you have a pastor who knows you, he should be eager to write a recommendation. If you’re a mom with godly mom friends, they should be able to see the fittingness of the timing and desire. If you’re a single young woman, your mature roommates and your older faithful parents or mentors should be urging you on.
Lean hard on God’s people to assist you in this kind of decision-making. If the holy people of God are all pointing you in the same direction and it matches with your desire for the better portion of Christ and the better equipping for life, then get an application and start the process today.
2nd-Year MA Student