Martha or Mary?

“But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!’” (Luke 10:41 NLT)

Jesus’ ministry was largely financed by women of means who had placed their trust in Him (see Luke 8:2-3). One of those women may have been a woman named Martha. We first meet Martha in Luke 10 when Jesus and His disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. That’s when Martha invited Jesus and, the context suggests, His disciples, into her home for a meal.

Martha was fretting in the kitchen and was not happy with her sister who had taken her place at the feet of Jesus, hanging on His every word. Martha complained and asked the Lord to have Mary help her with the meal, to which He replied: “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NLT)

Photo by Charlotte May on

This is often the predominant passage from which we’re drawn to our opinion as to whether we’re more like Martha or Mary? Are we more inclined to “serving Jesus’ needs, “ or “sitting at His feet?” As if those were our only options. We’re tempted to believe Mary’s love far outshined Martha’s. But did it? Is sitting at His feet the only way to express our love?

Some time later, in John 11, we see Martha and Mary in a different setting. Their brother, Lazarus, has died. When Martha and Mary heard that Jesus was coming, who would you have expected to run to see Him first? Mary? No, it was Martha. Again, she was not happy. “Lord,” she said, “if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21 NLT) But she didn’t stop there, revealing, not only her comfort in knowing she could share her heart with Him, but also her absolute trust that He was exactly who He claimed to be. She continued by saying, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” (vs. 22) They continue their conversation, affirming the deep roots of faith Martha had in Jesus.

Martha then returned to let Mary know that Jesus was asking to see her. Without hesitation, Mary left to find Jesus. When she found Him, she knelt at His feet, making the same statement that Martha had made earlier regarding her brother (vs. 21), but for Mary, that’s where the conversation ended. Seeing Mary and the many others weeping, Jesus also was moved to tears.

He then walked to the tomb of Lazarus and told those standing nearby to “Roll the stone aside.” (vs 39). You would have thought, based on the affirmation of confidence Martha showed in verse 22, that she would have been first in line to help move the stone. But, again, Martha, “Miss practicality,” wasn’t so much focused on her rock-solid faith in Jesus, as her concern for the smell of death her brother’s body would cause if the grave was opened.

Then Jesus reminded Martha of what she’d affirmed in their previous conversation (vs. 22), He thanked His Father for hearing Him, the stone was rolled away, Lazarus walked out of the grave, the graves clothes were removed, and the party began!

So, what’s my point? Simply this. Like every other person who has ever followed Jesus, depending on the circumstances in which we’re seen, we can be the proverbial “Martha” or “Mary.” Because of the way the Lord wired us, there are elements of Martha and Mary in all of us. There are times to “prepare the proverbial meal,” and times to “sit at His feet in worship.” Does that mean I can only worship while kneeling at His feet? I certainly hope not!

Paul, a prominent writer of much of the New Testament, said: “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT) An attitude of worship should be reflected in whatever we’re doing, in whatever context we’re doing it.

Whether we’re more like Martha or Mary isn’t the point. The point is, are we becoming more like Jesus in every activity and detail of our life? May everything we do, say or think be inundated with our desire to worship and honor our Savior. To make His presence known.

Blessings, Ed 😊

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