Bible Study, Biblical Women

Martha And Mary A Reminder To Choose The Best!

In the small village of Bethany about two miles from Jerusalem, on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, lived two sisters with their brother. This small family group were all good friends with Jesus and enjoyed spending time in His company. The story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary, reveals the balance between service and devotion. In the interaction between the two sisters, Jesus brings a gentle reminder to choose what is best…

The Martha and Mary Story

Bethany was on the well-traveled road from Jerusalem down to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples were going that way Martha invited them to her house to rest and be refreshed. She lived there with her brother Lazarus and her sister Mary.  Martha was the older sister and responsible for the home.

Martha had offered hospitality to quite a crowd of people and was busy making her guests comfortable and preparing a meal for them. Mary however had sat down at Jesus’ feet and was engrossed, listening to all that He said.

Martha became cross with Mary that she wasn’t helping with all the work that needed to be done. She came to Jesus to enlist His help – “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Jesus, however, did not respond in the way that Martha expected.

Jesus At The Home of Martha and Mary

On this occasion, Jesus visited the home of Martha and Mary to take a break on His journey. But, He also used the opportunity to teach those who had gathered around Him. Mary chose to join the disciples and sat at the feet of Jesus listening intently to His words.

Martha meanwhile had become anxious, and upset, about the many things that needed to be done to care for her guests. She appealed to Jesus to prompt her sister to help her, but Martha did not get the response she wanted. Jesus replied that only a few things are needed or indeed only one. He then went on to say that Mary had made the better choice.

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

The Difference Between The Two Sisters

In this story of Jesus at the home of Mary and Martha, we are introduced to two sisters who had very different personalities. Martha was practical, hard-working, hospitable, and generous. She demonstrated her gifts and talents by opening her home to Jesus and His disciples. Martha had high standards of hospitality, was prepared to serve, and wanted to offer her guests the best she possibly could.

Mary, however, was a more reflective and relational person. She wanted to listen, and learn, and sat among the men to hear the teachings of Jesus. Mary focused on Jesus and gave Him her undivided attention to the extent that she was unaware of what else needed to be done. Everything else became unimportant as Mary spent time in the presence of the Lord.

The differences between Mary and Martha are revealed by their response to Jesus. It is clear, that they both loved the Lord. But in this situation, Martha saw the immediate tasks that needed to be done. She focused on her service and what she was able to offer. Whereas Mary focused on the Lord and prioritized spending time with Him, over and above everything else.

Picture of two women linked together and smiling with the text 'Martha and Mary - service and devotion'.
A Lesson To Choose The Best!

Martha and Mary Reflection

Martha tried to gain Jesus’ support, to right what she perceived to be wrong. Jesus, however, discerned that Martha’s good intentions had gone astray. She had become pressured by her expectations and serving had become a burden, because her motivation was not right. She could have provided less, a simpler meal, and given herself more time to spend with the Lord. 

Mary had chosen the best, and what she had chosen would not be taken from her. What she learned and received by sitting at the feet of Jesus, would have lasting value. The time spent in the presence of the Lord would stay with her forever. Mary had revealed what was in her heart and had chosen to prioritize her spiritual hunger over and above any physical needs. (Bible Gateway Matthew 4:1-4)

Conflict developed between the two sisters because Martha expected Mary to join her in serving. She then became resentful when her sister did not have the same attitude or approach that she had. It is so easy to make assumptions about other people. But when we serve it needs to be from our heart, doing what we feel is right regardless of what other people are doing, or not doing!

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

To want to give our best to God is a Biblical principle. But sometimes we need to check our motivation for excellence. If the focus of our service becomes self-promoting, then it may well become difficult and wearying. But serving the Lord wholeheartedly is a place of freedom and grace, with the Holy Spirit enabling us!

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they doEphesians 6:7-8

Related Post: 5 Benefits of Waiting On The Lord

Choose What is Better!

Each one of us has certain strengths reflecting our personality. They are part of who we are and developing them and putting them to use is our service to the Lord. Jesus has the central place in our lives and our service, in whatever form, flows out of our relationship with Him.

Martha, unwittingly, reveals an important truth in this story – our level of irritability is a measure of time spent in God’s presence. When we spend more time with Him, we will have more peace. The less time we spend with Him, the more pressure we will feel!

“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3

Our service flows from our devotion to the Lord – produced by faith, prompted by love, and enduring by hope! If our work, our service, or position, starts to consume us remember Jesus’ words that to bear fruit we must remain in Him, apart from Him we can do nothing. And don’t let the good become the enemy of the best, remember the story of Martha and Mary…

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