Are You a Mary or a Martha?

Focus passage: Luke 10: 38-42

We learn in Luke 10:38 that Jesus and His disciples entered into a house of a certain woman named Martha, whose home was located in the village of Bethany (John 11:1). It is interesting to note that the name, Martha, means “myrrh, mistress of the home, one who becomes bitter,” according to several Bible dictionaries. Her name seems fitting since the account in Luke describes Martha as troubled and frustrated in fulfilling her perceived role as a praise-worthy hostess. Moreover, Martha had a problem: Mary just sat at the feet of Jesus while the work was left for her to do by herself! It’s not hard to imagine Martha building up increasing resentment toward her sister as she undoubtedly grew more exhausted and frustrated with her seemingly endless preparations.

Finally— perhaps inevitably considering her frame of mind— Martha actually confronted Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore to help me” (Luke 10:40). Humanly speaking, we might expect a sharp correction on the part of Jesus regarding her behavior; something along the lines of, “Martha, stop worrying and fussing about everything!” Instead, Jesus gave her a tender rebuke, “Martha, Martha, you are concerned and troubled about many things…”

Before we judge Martha too harshly, it is helpful to understand that she probably felt justifiably responsible for the hospitality offered to Jesus while He was in her home. On the other hand, it is good for us to remember— especially as Thanksgiving meals will be prepared here in America— that we should not allow even the good services we perform for others to push us to exhaustion, resentment, or frustration. Time alone with our Savior, even if just a brief prayer, can make all the difference between being a Mary or a Martha.

More from this passage tomorrow…