Did Jesus Celebrate Mother's Day?

For many people, Mother’s Day will be a happy, joy-filled day to fulfill the instructions found in Ephesians 6:2 to “honor YOUR father and mother.”  But for many, this Sunday will be filled with the complicated emotions that come from mixing our Christian church culture with the secular holiday of Mother’s Day.

I remember one Sunday when we were in the depths of infertility treatments, we visited my parent’s church for Mother’s Day.  Just a few days before we found out that our latest round of treatment didn’t work, and I was devastated. I honestly didn’t want to go, but I felt I needed to for my own mother and grandmother.  At the beginning of the service, the pastor asked the mothers in the room to stand up.  As I fought back the tears, sinking deeper into the pew, I remember looking around and thinking “Oh. These are women God loves. This is the club I will never be a part of.”  I excused myself to the restroom in fear that I would break down completely.  I locked myself in a stall and sobbed feeling rejection in every bit of being.  What was I doing wrong? Was I not good enough? Did God think I would screw up being a mother like I screwed up so much in my life? Was I being punished for my past sin? Why did something that came so quickly for other women seem impossible for me? What did this say about me as a woman?  What does this mean for my life?

There is an obscure passage in the Bible that at first glance seems like a strange interaction.  It’s one of the passages that I would typically skip right over. Demon possession. Spirits.  Strange things.  In fact, I only found these two verses hidden in a popular passage years ago when I was researching the church’s celebration of Mother’s Day and what the Bible says about the practice.  In Luke 11:14-26, a crowd has gathered around Jesus to watch as he drives out a demon. The crowd is amazed, and in response, a woman calls out to bless Jesus and says in verse 27, “Blessed is the mother who gave birth to you and nursed you.”

And Jesus replies by saying “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” In one sentence Jesus dispels the idea that motherhood is the ultimate calling for women.  He says blessed “RATHER” are all those who follow me. 

Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen in her book Gender & Grace: Love, Work & Parenting in a Changing World explains it this way, “Jesus does not disparage relationships, but he does not allow these roles to take precedence over the kingdom of God. He does not allow them to be idolized.”

Is motherhood important? Absolutely. Is it the defining crescendo of womanhood? Absolutely not. 

My position as a child of God is what defines me.  And with that comes a new identity. Fully loved and complete.  There is no less than or greater in the kingdom of God.  

If I could go back to that Sunday at church, I would pull aside the pastor, who undoubtedly had good intentions and most likely could not understand the pain of this day.  I would explain to him how this cultural celebration that makes it’s way into the church excludes the single women of the church, the ones who can’t have children, the ones who have chosen not to have children, the ones whose children are no longer with us, and the ones who have broken mother relationships that are painful and not joyful.   Wouldn’t it be better to celebrate ALL women and their value in the kingdom of God?

Church on this day too often becomes a place of pain instead of a place of healing.  We exalt the role or status of the lucky or “chosen” woman over another instead of elevating all women based on the radical counterculture gospel truth that Jesus died for – our status as children of God.

Sisters.  If this weekend is hard and complicated and messy and emotional, my heart and my prayers are with you.  God sees you walking the Mother’s Day card aisle in tears (like I was last night), God sees you closing out Facebook because you can’t look at one more post, and God desires for you to bring your sadness to him and rest. 

He has not forgotten you.

I love my children, and I’m incredibly grateful to be a mother, but I am even more grateful that God calls me his. 


Luann Riley