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  • Writer's pictureRevShirleyMurphy

I’m not a Mary or a Martha!

I’m not sure why it has become such a big thing lately to identify yourself as a Mary or a Martha when it comes to Christian women. Frankly, I don’t consider myself either, or I really don’t think Jesus intended for us to label each other when He spoke those words to Martha that “… Mary hath chosen that good part…” (Luke 10:42).

If you need to read this story, the passage is found in Luke 10:38-42.

Made up Drama

I think people are trying to add so much drama to this story that isn’t necessary and isn’t even in the Bible. When you take the time to read the passage, you see what Jesus actually did was simply try to get Martha to slow down and try to get her to see things in perspective. Seems to me that He was drawing attention to the fact that even when you have duties to perform, that you should make the time to feed your soul with His Word.

Jesus wasn’t saying if you have company and serve others a good meal that it is wrong. He also wasn’t saying Mary wasn’t a hospitable person because she wasn’t serving at that moment. He surely wasn’t saying that if you need help not to ask for it.

I have read many things on Mary and Martha lately and much of it verges on the crazy. I’m all for reading the Bible and really wondering how the details of the story played out. It’s okay to do that, but to teach that we should be labelling each other because of this passage makes no sense to me whatsoever!

The Faith of Martha

We know Martha loved Jesus. We see how much faith she had in Him when her brother, Lazarus, died. Read John 11, and you will find that it wasn’t Mary up close to Jesus that day. Martha was the one that went running as soon as she heard Jesus was on His way. She went out to meet Him before Jesus even got through the door of the house.

“Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.” John 11:20

Martha knew Jesus could raise her brother from the dead because she had an overwhelming amount of faith. Kudos to Martha for having great faith!

“Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” John 11:21-22

I’m sure Martha loved the words of Jesus just as much as Mary. Martha just got cumbered about with serving the guests. Get over the crazy idea that Martha was this hyped-up lady that was trying to have some beyond the scope super-duper Pinterest meal all done up Martha Stewart style. She was just Martha of the Bible, trying to get everyone fed. I very much doubt that Martha was off doing such things as writing out place cards in calligraphy, handmaking favours, and forming fondant flowers to paste on a cake.

Was she preparing more than necessary? Well, probably. The Bible doesn’t go into detail, but if you have studied this passage in depth, you may know that different biblical scholars’ debate what is meant by, “But one thing is needful” that Jesus says. Some scholars think it means no more than one food dish is necessary to serve. Some scholars believe what Jesus means by that one thing is hearing and listening to the Word of God.

Either way, we see that Martha was going about doing her part to make the meal worthy of Jesus and His disciples. You have to remember that Martha was a follower of Jesus. I can see her going all out for Him and His disciples as guests because of her love for Jesus. Can’t you? Jesus was a great friend of her family. The Bible specifically says Jesus loved this family.

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” John 11:5

I have read so much lately that Martha was just trying to show off. Nowhere does the Bible say this and nowhere does it infer it. Just because today many of the people that post photos on Pinterest and Instagram are trying to outdo everyone else doesn’t mean Martha was. She was a woman of great faith. I have trouble believing she was being selfish and prideful here in her meal preparation.

Was Martha distracted and running in all different directions? Yes. That’s what that word, “cumbered” in Luke 10:40 means. If you have ever fixed a meal for company, you know that is easy to do.

An Ordinary Question

It was the custom of the time for the women to do the food preparation and serving, so what Martha was asking Jesus in this passage wasn’t something way out of the ordinary.

“But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.” Luke 10:40

Martha’s question to Jesus wasn’t way off the wall or anything like that. It was actually Mary who was doing the unordinary thing by stopping to listen instead of the food preparation and serving.

I read recently someone said Martha was trying to do it all. That’s really so way far from what the Bible says. This lady was just serving others as was the custom. She wasn’t on some kick to throw a big Pinterest party shindig. She wasn’t trying to outdo her neighbour’s party skills. She wasn’t trying to top what someone else did for their women’s ministry event.

No. She was feeding hungry people. She was getting a meal on the table. Even if she was preparing too much and going above and beyond what may have been deemed necessary, this woman knew there were guests to feed. The disciples and Jesus had just travelled from one village to the next. They had been out teaching, healing, and dealing with people. They were probably tired and hungry, and Martha had invited them into her home.

Martha just wanted some help in the kitchen. Please people, stop vilifying this woman who had great faith (John 11:21-22). I’ve done my share of meals where I felt like I just needed some more help so things would go a little smoother to get everyone fed. There is a lot of work in just getting a meal on the table for your family, let alone guests.

Receiving Jesus into our Homes

This passage in Luke says that Martha received Jesus into her house. She knew by doing so that Jesus wouldn’t be alone. Martha was a close follower of Jesus. She knew the disciples would be coming in too. There might have been neighbours and other people too. The Bible isn’t clear on who all Martha was preparing to serve, but by receiving Jesus, Martha was taking on the job of feeding them all. Martha was busy about doing her duty and taking on that responsibility of receiving Jesus into her house.

“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.” Luke 10:38

I’m not sure why people make up all these crazy things about Martha when we can focus on what the Bible says she actually did. Martha received Jesus into her home! That shows a hospitable heart. Why isn’t this focused on more? I love the whole attitude that Martha had concerning this. Receiving Jesus into her home showed she had such a willing heart. Let’s stir up a hurly-burly about this little titbit about Martha.

I’ve read some of the highlights of some of these studies out there on Mary and Martha and realised that there is quite a bit of teaching that Martha was resentful of Mary. Where in the world does that thought come from? Did Martha ask Jesus for Mary to help her? Yes, she did, but why would we even infer this was out of resentment? When I ask my family to help me get ready for guests, it isn’t out of resentment. I just want them to stop what they are doing and pitch in and help.

Team Jesus!

It seems to me that both Martha and Mary have some great qualities we can learn from as Christian women. Can’t we just stop trying to make women feel they are one or the other (a Martha or a Mary)? Why would we want to encourage women to label themselves? And we wonder why women have such self-esteem problems. Let’s not add to it.

I see such a need to get back to actually going by what the Bible has to say and not what Bible study authors or bloggers make up, especially where this Bible story is concerned.

Let’s get over the made-up drama of this passage and get to the heart of it. Let’s receive Jesus into our homes on regular basis. Let’s get more of God’s Word to feed our hearts. Let’s listen to the words of Jesus. Let’s stop being “cumbered”. Let’s learn to turn our troubles and worries over to Jesus. Let’s put the cares and concerns of food and life aside for a few minutes and learn at Jesus feet.

It’s time to get over being on Team Martha or Team Mary and get on Team Jesus!


Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World - Joanna Weaver

Martha, Mary, and Jesus - Nancy Corson Carter

Set Apart: Stop Comparing, Own Your Giftedness, and Rest in Jesus - Copeland Denisse

Ten Women of the Bible - Max Lucado

Gods High Calling for Women - John MacArthur

Jesus and Women - Kristi McLelland

Martha and Mary - Anastasio Ballestrero

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