My mother-in-law and I had a great conversation a few years ago about the topic of Mary vs. Martha. I asked her which one she felt she was more like, and vice-versa. You see, these two sisters each had a personal relationship with Jesus, but each one lived it out differently. Which woman do you relate to more, or rather, which one are you more like?
When I read the accounts of these 2 women in Martha’s home, then read the story of Jesus raising their brother Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44), it touched my heart. All 3 of these siblings had a real in-depth relationship with Jesus, enough so that Jesus was deeply troubled about and cried before he called Lazarus back from the other side!
So what was it about each of the women that made them so different in how they related to Jesus, and in how they lived their life?
“But he answered them, My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
Martha was the older of the sisters, and it was her home that Jesus kept frequenting. She was always busy preparing meals for him and his entourage. He was always surrounded by the disciples, so when she served him, she also served them. This meant there was much to do in preparation; from cleaning the house to getting the groceries, to cooking and serving the meal. All of the duties that a good host had to perform, she did them with excellence.
Now Martha had a strong personality. In Luke 10:38-42, we read the story of how she was frustrated with her younger sister Mary, who had decided to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him, rather than help her in preparing the meal for a large party. So naturally Martha approached the one person she knew could do something about it – Jesus. Martha had no fear. She wore her heart on her sleeve. If she had something to say, she said it. There was no holding back. She spoke her mind, and was quite blunt about her opinion. Things were black and white. Her short-temperedness didn’t do her justice though. Nor did her worrying about the appearance and timeliness of getting her house in order and dinner ready. To her credit, she was doer. She took action. Her heart was to please others by her service. You could say that most women are like Martha.
When I read about Mary, I picture this sweet, innocent young lady. It says she sat at Jesus’ feet listening to him. She adored him! She is the same woman that later poured expensive perfume on his feet and then wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair. Her heart was pure. She was eager to learn, calm, devoted, a dreamer, and selfless. Her decision to spend time with Jesus rather than doing something else, was to her credit. She gave of what she had; her time, her wealth, and heart, and spent it on and with Jesus. But she chose to ignore her duty of helping Martha in the kitchen. This led to dissension in the home.
When comparing the 2 women, there are some distinct characteristics about both that are the same: they both loved Jesus with all their heart, they both served him in the way they knew best, they each were enthusiastic about being with him, and sharing their home, time and resources with him.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
What can we learn from these women? Each one loved Jesus, and He loved each one of them. Perhaps we need to find a balance between the two.
– Maybe for us, there needs to be a balance in our lives with service and relationship.
– A balance between serving and sitting.
– Between sharing and listening.
– Learn to fully focus on Jesus with all of your attention, then fully focus on how that relationship with Him affects your daily life, which will result in living it fully for Him.
– Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
– Do not compare your life and serving with others. Your gifts and calling may not be theirs.
– Don’t expect others to have the same passions, calling or talents either. Their journey is not your journey.
– Hear, then do. Listen, then act. Worship, then work.
“Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might…”
Food for thought: “The best gift you could ever give someone is your time because you’re giving them something you’ll never get back.”
Fun facts(?): My mother-in-law has this satirical poem on her wall-
What if the 3 Wise Men were women? They would have:
– asked for directions,
– arrived on time (for the birth),
– helped deliver the baby,
– cleaned the stable,
– made a casserole,
– and brought practical gifts.
Photo by: Juliette F (Unsplash.com) – Table is Set