Are You A Mary Or A Martha?

Jeanette Berry, October 1990

Last Sunday night my husband preached a message about Martha and Mary.  I am sure you know the story of the two sisters.  They along with their brother, Lazarus, were friends of Jesus.  During a visit of Jesus Martha was cumbered about with much serving and was upset because Mary did not help her, but was sitting at Jesus' feet listening to Him teach.  Martha complained to Jesus, but He rebuked her stating that Mary had chosen "that good part which would not be taken from her."

The message was tremendous, but left me troubled and searching of my own heart.  I am extremely busy and can always see a dozen jobs that need to be done.  I am constantly on the lookout for others that I feel could help me.  There is so much to be done for the Lord...if we just had more people to help!"  The question I asked of myself, "Am I a Martha"?

After our Wednesday night prayer service, a group of our women had a meeting.  To my surprise I found that they had reacted to the Sunday night message just as I did;  basically re-evaluating their own service to God.  The discussion was quite though provoking.  Questions were proposed such as; What would have happened if Martha had not served?  Would Jesus have been pleased to have nothing to eat?  Was Martha too much of a perfectionist or too demanding?  What about Mary just sitting?  Clearly Jesus was pleased by her actions.  In our own minds we wanted to understand just what Jesus was saying in this particular incident.

Clear in my mind, I want to be a Mary.  Through the years I have often wondered if I were to choose only one woman from the Bible to be my heroine, which one would it be.  Obviously, I revere Mary, the mother of Jesus.  I feel there is a sacredness about her to which I could never attain.  The Old Testament records several admirable women, but non of them speak to me as does Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  She appears to be totally immersed in Jesus.  Nothing else matters when He is around.  She listened and she understood His message.  She know Who He was and what He was about.  After His resurrection it was Mary who was first at the tomb and it was her name He first spoke. When I think of that kind of  relationship with our Lord my heart responds and longs to be like that.

While my heart longs to be Mary, I find my hands and feet being Martha, "cumbered about with much serving."  Is there a point of moderation?  Can I do both?  The answer is certainly, yes.  Ecclesiastes states there is a time for everything.  I think that is the key.  I believe Mary worked diligently, but when Jesus was teaching, she put everything aside and gave Him her full attention.  Nothing else mattered.  She listened with her mind, soul, and spirit.  She listened with understanding.

How often I sit through a service where a man of God is speaking God's message and my thoughts are miles away.  I am not concentrating on listening, learning, and applying what God wants me to hear.  I am too cumbered about with all the activities I have to do, the people I must see, and the things that must be accomplished in order to serve Jesus.

I want to follow Mary's example and work at other times.  When Jesus is speaking I want Him to have my full attention;  listening with heart, mind, soul and understanding.

I might add here that the same principle applies to husbands.  How many husbands feel as if no one cares, listens or understands.  We as wives need to be the one who is there to listen to him, to care about his concerns, and to understand with a loving heart.  It is one of the main ingredients of a happy, successful marriage.

My philosophy is to work like Martha until....  Until it is time to listen and sit at the feet of Jesus.  Then all else should be put aside as we sit at His feet like Mary.


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