Being Mary AND Martha

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary,who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 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!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Most people have read this Scripture or heard sermons taught on it many times. And most always it is with the same message: be like Mary, not Martha. However, if you are anything like me, you greatly identify with Martha. You are the doer, the server, the get-things-doner. But the message we have always received is that we should not be like her, and that can leaving us feeling a little ashamed about how it seems we were made.

Lately though, I have been doing a Bible study called “A Mary Like Me: Flawed Yet Called”, by Andy Lee. I would highly recommend it for many reasons, but especially for how in chapter one Andy somewhat challenges this message we have been receiving. She says:

“I know so many dear sisters who are the doers in the church. Without their Martha personalities, nothing would get done. I’ve seen clouds shadow their faces as they translate the meaning of Jesus’s words to Martha as an admonition not to focus on the needed tasks at hand. I’ve seen hurt and confusion in their eyes as they wonder why they were given such personalities. Scripture should never burden or bring confusion. It may convict, but God’s conviction ushers in freedom and healing. If a heavy oppression falls upon you from reading a Scripture or from someone’s interpretation, do your research. Study. This may require digging into the ancient text, the Hebrew or Greek counterparts to our translated words. Appendix A gives resources for such study. Though our Bible is inerrant and inspired by the Holy Spirit, it was written in a very different culture and time, and it has been interpreted by men. We need help understanding what the original authors intended.

God is faithful. I believe he woos us closer to his truth with each generation.

He wants us to wrestle. He desires to give us the blessing.

Jesus told Martha she was upset and worried about many things. I wonder, in context of this Scripture, if Martha was worried not only about the burning pot roast but about her sister’s position sitting with the disciples. If this is so, then those of you who identify with Martha’s gift of hospitality and service can take off that yoke (another term for “burden”) and stand in freedom today as you serve Jesus in the kitchen. Yes, we must kneel at his feet and learn from him, soaking up the truth. But can you now visualize this reprimand from Jesus as a declaration of freedom for women, not an admonishment against Martha’s hospitality?” (p. 30-31).

Jesus wasn’t saying that Martha should change her personality. He wasn’t saying that cooking and hosting and serving people was wrong. He wasn’t saying that it is bad to be a Type-A who does well at getting things done.

He was saying that it was okay for her sister (and her) to join Him and the other men (something not socially acceptable back then) to hear his teaching. He was saying that though serving and doing things for people is a wonderful thing, they should not distract us from Him. He was saying that there is value in sitting at His feet.

I don’t know about you, but this makes way more sense to me than the view I’ve been taught of “don’t be like Martha.” The fact of the matter is, without the Martha’s of the world, not much would get done. Without the Martha’s of the world, people would not experience hospitality. Without the Martha’s of the world effective service opportunities and outreaches would not be planned and carried out. We need these “Martha” characteristics and giftings.

We also need to be like Mary. We need to not let serving others and all that must get done distract us from our ultimate focus: Jesus. We need to value His words and teachings. We need to take time to sit at His feet – even during the busiest times of life.

You see, in order to effectively live in God’s bigger picture, we must strive to be like Mary AND Martha.

I hope this new perspective (or at least new to me) encourages you as you strive to daily live for Him!

Megan Downer

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