Mary-ed Martha or Martha-ed Mary

February 5, 2009

“Mary-ed Martha or Martha-ed Mary”

I was recently graced by a new perspective on Martha and Mary that I hadn’t even thought about. (Sub-point: I’m amazed and blessed when someone brings a new picture to something I’ve only been able to see a certain way.)
Martha usually gets a “bad rap” for her attention to the work at hand and displeasure at her sister Mary’s “unconcern about the work”. Luke 10:38-42 gives us the story. It’s a mixture of sibling rivalry, jealous feelings, and conflicting views on what is most important at that moment.
Many of us have been there! We have experienced the feelings of injustice as we work our hands to the bone while our sibling sits in the recliner with the foot rest up. Or how many of us guys have been sprawled out on the couch while our wives have been perspiring over a hot stove? In our house “clanging and banging pots and pans” was a warning signal, not an accident!
Luke 10:40 is like a verbal red flare. “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made…”
Had to be made!
There’s a sense of urgency! Dinner doesn’t just magically appear. Someone or… someones have to prepare it!
Verse 40 comes on the heels of a description of what Mary is doing. “Mary…sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” She was living in the moment. Martha is overwhelmed by the moment. Martha asks Jesus “Don’t you care…?”
Here it comes. Jesus replies “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.”
What was the better thing? To sit at the feet of Jesus? For Mary…yes! For Martha…not necessarily!
There are times to be about the work, and there are times to sit, listen, and learn. Mary was at that sit, listen, and learn stage. Martha was at the serve point.
In churches there are people that we rush into ministry who are really still at the sit, listen, and learn stage. We have a bad habit of fast-tracking new believers, or spiritually immature believers, into “working for the Lord”.
Scripture speaks to growing in our walk with the Lord. We’re to be moving towards being Martha’s.
On the other side, there are many…many…many Christians who could be characterized as “life sitters”. They’ve been sitting at the feet of Jesus for so long their legs have gone numb. “What is better” isn’t continuous sitting. Even movie theatres have an intermission when the film is extra long.
“What is better” is different for each believer. The constant is a seeking after God.
Mary progresses. John 12 has her serving at the feet of Jesus by pouring expensive perfume on them and wiping them dry with her hair. Her sitting in worship progressed to serving in worship. That John 12 story also mentions Martha. She was serving!
Each one of us has to be asking ourselves whether or not we’re in a “sit and listen” time or “serving” time. We are probably called to bounce back and forth between the two, instead of being regimented in a certain way. Answering “what is better” is a question that needs to be asked each day.

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One Comment on “Mary-ed Martha or Martha-ed Mary”

  1. Pam Says:

    *Gulp* – okay, here goes…

    It’s interesting how Martha seems to be in the “wrong” here, and we see her kind of as the bossy older sister. Jesus didin’t say Martha was “wrong”, He helped her see things from His perspective. It’s interesting to think of it that way. I was taught that Jesus was rebuking Martha, “Chill, woman, you’re focus is way off base.” But He was really teaching her in love. Their relatioship wasn’t hurt from honest words, because in John 11 the sisters sent for Jesus to help their sick brother, and :5 says, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,” This was after Martha asked Jesus to set her sister straight.

    I’m so glad there are these stories in the Bible about real people being real. Somehow we’ve gotten away from that freedom of relationship with Christ, thinking we need to say the “right” thing and use the “right” words. For much of my life I tried hard to say the “right” things and avoid the “wrong” things or even show what I was feeling because I was afraid of rejection… afraid that God would have no use for me because I didn’t choose the “right” thing (not the better thing, you see, but the “right” thing). Not fun.

    Martha remained free in her relathioship with Christ, and her personality shows in John 11, when she runs up to Jesus and confronts him again – about her brother’s death. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Again, Jesus’ response is one of helping Martha see more of the truth of Who He is. Martha doesn’t leave her sister sitting in grief, but gets her and brings her to Jesus. Mary got up and went to Him immediately. Looks like both Martha and Mary chose what was better in that instance, and both learned a whole lot more about the love of Christ through it. Hmmmm… just like Christ said at the beginning of chapter 11, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

    So … (bear with me, I’m working through this as I type)… when we choose what is better from God’s persepective … He will be glorified. And when we’re honest about how we feel about things, could that be a way of choosing what is better? When we’re real, and not hiding behind the “right” way to be, isn’t God glorified? – because He can then teach us and help us grow and be able to better choose what is better the next time. Through learning and growing this way, our lives will be an example (as Mary’s and Martha’s) and maybe help someone else in some way grow in their relationship with Christ.

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