Learning From Mary and Martha
Written by Pam Myers
In Luke 10:38-42 we read a story about two sisters. Valuable lessons can be gleaned from both of these women!
As Christian women, wives, mothers, sisters and friends, we have all been involved in situations where emotions have escalated. Words spoken in haste resulted in hurt feelings and damaged relationships. You might be thinking, Wow, to some extent, this describes my every day!
Ideally, we’d like our response in a heated moment to be godly and carefully measured so that we could pass along encouraging and cheerful words to those surrounding us. We all strive for unity within our personal and spiritual families. This is what we pray for. But then reality comes along, bursting our perfect bubble, and we find that our reaction is not what we had just finished praying for!
It seems that Mary and Martha were much like us. Let’s look at these two sisters and see what we can learn.
By reading John 11:17-27, we can gain insight into some of Martha’s strengths:
- She was hospitable and took initiative (verse 20).
- She trusted Christ and had faith in Him (verses 21-22).
- She had a good grasp of God’s plan (verse 24).
- She understood who Jesus was (verse 27).
Martha had many wonderful attributes. Yet Luke’s account also reveals that her serving spirit and genuine hospitality took a sharp left turn when her sister didn’t help her.
Instead of being the gracious hostess, preparing a lovely meal for her guests, it appears that she got into a snit. Is it possible she began banging pots and pans around to convey how upset she was? (I’m not sure if this can be done with pottery, but insert the New Testament equivalent of making lots of noise in the kitchen.) Martha was on the warpath. She became distracted, irritated and stressed-out. How could her sister abandon her in the kitchen when a very special and important meal needed to be prepared?
By reading Luke 10:38-42, we can see Mary’s strengths:
- She was spiritually focused (verse 39).
- She didn’t allow Christ’s visit to distract her (verse 42).
- She realized the value of Christ’s teaching and that it would aid in her future service.
Mary was not being lazy, selfish or uncaring. She just had a different and better focus. She recognized the right priority. She saw a golden opportunity to learn by sitting at the feet of Jesus. She knew that His words would add lasting, eternal value to her life. She strove to have the right heart, mind, focus and motivation.
One can only imagine what was going on in Mary’s mind when she heard and saw Martha ranting in the kitchen.
How easily can this happen?
How did this situation get so out of control that Martha chided Jesus, necessitating Him to take her aside and gently correct her (Luke 10:40-42)? Let’s bring it into modern-day scenarios.
Perhaps you have experienced:
- A thoughtless comment by a family member, such as, “Are we having that again for dinner?”
- The feeling that we are pulling more of a load than anyone else. You may have heard something like, “Hey, thanks for making cookies every week for church. Keep ’em coming. I don’t have time to bake.”
- The feeling of being taken advantage of when we hear such comments as, “Oh, let her make all the Mother’s Day gifts for the ladies. I’ll start to do this if she gets sick.”
- Being frustrated when there are problems or things don’t go as smoothly as planned—you’re running late for an event, you scorch your favorite top with the iron or the meal you’ve prepared turns out to be a flop.
Our pure and loving motivation to serve others can go astray very quickly and easily when we have experiences like these.
What can we do to avoid turning into Martha? How might we regain the proper focus?
Keeping a Mary perspective
To avoid lashing out, we must glean strength by:
- Asking God for His forgiveness, strength and humility so we can serve with a proper attitude.
- Realizing that getting upset can cause damage and division within our home and congregation. As part of the Body of Christ, we have the opportunity to love and edify each other; and we must not tear each other down.
- Phoning a friend, perhaps one of the “older women” spoken of in Titus 2:3-5. Explain the struggle you are dealing with and ask her to pray for you.
- Preparing and organizing in advance. If you know that something could become a stressful situation, prepare and organize in advance. Ask for help and give yourself plenty of time to complete the task.
Life gives us plenty of opportunities to grow and build our spiritual foundation so that our physical service can be done with the right heart and motivation.
Peter wrote about true beauty being “the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4).
We must strive to have the right priorities and to choose the needed, good part—the part that will never be taken away (Luke 10:42).
If you would like to learn more lessons from Martha and Mary, read “Women of Faith: Martha and Mary” and “Martha, Mary: Putting First Things First.”