Mary and Martha, two polar opposite sisters. Both loved Jesus and believed He was indeed the Son of God, yet worshiped in two very different ways.
Martha was a doer. She was always busy. The oldest sister and a little on the bossy side, like we older sisters tend to be. She was a perfectionist and wanted things done HER WAY. She was “the hostess with the mostess”, the original Martha Stewart.
Mary, on the other hand was a ‘hearer”. She loved Jesus and wanted to be with him. She would sit at his feet and listen to his every word while Mary carried out her hostessing duties.
I imagine the sisters had words concerning their different outlooks on life.
In Luke 10:38-42, As Jesus and His disciples were approaching Martha’s town, Martha invited them to have a meal and rest a bit. Martha, being the doer, wanted to attend to her guests physical needs; she wanted to make sure they had plenty to eat and drink. Mary, on the other hand was more concerned with her guests emotional needs. She wanted them to feel welcome and wanted.
Martha was working very hard making sure everyone had plenty to eat and their glasses were full. Mary, on the other hand was sitting at Jesus feet, listening to His every word. Martha got very perturbed with her sister, as we doers have a tendency to do. She probably felt a bit overwhelmed and unappreciated. She finally approached Jesus and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt that you are doing all the work and that others are enjoying themselves talking and having a good time? I know I have!
And Jesus replied,“Martha, Martha, You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Notice what Jesus said, “Mary has chosen what is better”. She did not say that Martha was wrong in her way, nor did He say that Mary should help Martha. He said that “Mary had a better way”. That is very interesting.
As a doer, I often forget to sit at Jesus feet and listen to him. I have a to do list and things need to get done. At times, I have felt condemned by this, but Jesus did not say Martha should stop doing, He said Mary’s way was a better way.
What I think Jesus was saying is that we should have a little bit of Mary and Martha in us. God created the perfect team when He made Mary and Martha sisters. Each possessed traits that are needed in our world. Can you imagine how Jesus and the disciples would have felt if both ladies had ignored their emotional needs and had only spent their time tending to their physical needs. They would have felt ignored and uncomfortable being in their home with no one talking to them. Or what if both would have sat down at Jesus feet and no one would have served them? They would have gone hungry and would have to go somewhere else to get the physical needs met.
Women in the 21st century have many, many distractions that interfere with us making time for relationships. We take care of our families, have jobs inside and/or outside the home, and run around trying to be perfect. Technology distracts us, we must know everything immediately. How many times have you been on the phone during dinner? We feel that we must multi-task all the time. But when we multi-task, we don’t pay full attention to the people around us as Mary did.
I for one am a Martha. I know all about those overwhelming feelings of perfection. And I believe what Jesus Luke was referring to when he included this account in his gospel is that our lives should be balanced. There are times to be busy and times to be still. And I need to learn balance.
What about you? Are you a Mary or a Martha? Are you trying to live a balanced life with a little bit of both?