By Deborah Maxey
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 NIV
We all know a Martha. Or two. You know that super-hostess on steroids with everything coming to the table at the same time, at the right temperature, looking like the best picture on Instagram. Her table is beautifully set and adorned with fresh flowers she grew and arranged herself.
I wonder if the Biblical Martha was like that. These verses tell us Martha was scrambling around in constant motion to “get-her done.” Maybe she chaired the synagogue hospitality committee and organized the bake sales, making cookies shaped like baskets with a little Moses in the middle.
But her sister Mary wasn’t on the same page. Can’t you just hear the conversation between them? Martha exasperated, placing the food just so on a beautiful serving tray, “Mary, help me. This is Jesus we are talking about. Everything has to be just right. It’s not like we can open a Pringles can and set out Hostess cupcakes” (or whatever the equivalent was back then).
What we do know is that Martha was using her gift of hospitality to serve the Lord. She wanted things just right for Him.
In the Bible passage it is clear that both Mary and Martha loved Jesus. And Jesus recognized that. Jesus didn’t condemn Martha for her focus on detail and being busy, but he lovingly asked her to check her priorities. Both women felt they were honoring Him.
The passage describes Martha as “distracted.” She had gotten off course. And Jesus was loving Martha when he guided her towards focusing on what would be hers for eternity, not busy work, but worship, internalizing His love, and basking in His presence. He wanted her to know, among other things, the greatest value is the joy of worship, feeling swept up in His love.
Which one do I want to be? Mary of course. Mary who had her priorities and focus straight. And yet…when I take an honest look, so often I am Martha.
When I rush through my daily devotions.
When I read The Word but don’t bother to research something I don’t fully understand.
When I drive to church thinking of the list of things I need to do when I get there or return home, instead of preparing my heart with praise and readying myself for worship and hearing his Word.
When I thank God for blessings but don’t slow down to let myself feel the joy of what I’m thanking God for.
And, anytime I go about my calling with a hurried checklist instead of connecting with God on a deep heart-felt level. After all, who called me? He is present in what He asked me to do. My work becomes a holy gift to me when I allow myself to recognize His presence.
If an internal command pushes me to get it done without those things, I’m Martha!
Lord, I know you love me even when I get distracted. Please help me to be like Mary. Continue to show me how striving to check the boxes robs me of precious closeness to you. I’m grateful that you want me to feel your presence instead and to soak up your love. Because that is what I most want.
This article was brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: A licensed therapist, Deborah McCormick Maxey repurposed her life when she closed her counseling practice in 2020 to joyfully invest her energy in writing Christian fiction, devotions, and her website https://deborahmaxey.com that focuses on miracles.
Her debut novel, Deborah’s debut novel, The Endling, was named the Golden Scrolls Fiction Book of the Year. Native American Emerson Coffee is the last surviving member of her tribe. When US Marshals inform her she’s being hunted by a mob hit man, Emerson declines their offer of witness protection. But when three innocent children become caught in the crosshairs, Emerson must decide if she will risk it all—her mountains, her heritage . . . even her life—to secure their safety.
Join the conversation. Are you a Mary or a Martha?