For those of us who are the Type A-git-er-done women, the passage comparing Martha and Mary can be a problem.
In the book of Luke, Jesus is visiting in Martha’s home. That description itself is a clue for what is to come.
This was Martha’s home. She wasn’t living in her brother Lazarus’s home with her sister, Mary. This was her place and they lived with her. So either she was a wealthy widow who inherited the house and the grounds or she was a hard worker and wisely invested her money.
Martha was a woman who knew how to get things done.
In the Luke 10:38-42 passage, Jesus travels to Bethany and Martha opens her home to him. Obviously, she also had the gift of hospitality, and she knew Jesus was an important figure in her culture. She became a disciple and a follower of Jesus.
Because she knew who He was, she wanted everything to go smoothly. She probably ordered her servants to bring the best wine. She planned a generous meal with some extra treats – something she knew Jesus would love. She made sure the house was clean and in order for this important guest. She changed into her best tunic and fixed her hair, slipped on her best sandals and probably spritzed some type of aromatic oil on her skin. She was ready to meet the Messiah.
Because she was an organizer and a planner, she wanted everything to be just right. But her sister, Mary, wasn’t helping much. Mary was spending her time listening to Jesus teach. She was right in the middle of all the guys, sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning all she could. For a woman, in her culture, it was a gift to be included in this special teaching moment.
Then Luke records what happened next, “Martha was distracted – anxious and worried – by all the preparations” (Luke 10:40). She wanted Jesus to tell Mary to come help her.
Jesus reminded Martha he didn’t really need anything, and her worries were keeping her from the most important part of the day – listening to him teach. He reminded Martha that Mary had chosen well and he would not take that choice away from her.
Several important points can be taken from this passage:
- Jesus is including women as disciples who can learn from him.
- Mary recognizes this gift and takes advantage of it.
- Martha is caught up in the worries of making everything perfect for Jesus.
- Perfectionism is not how we honor God.
- It isn’t Martha’s work ethic that’s the problem here – it’s her lack of balance.
Sometimes Martha is used as an example of a woman who is more concerned with the work and the appearance of her home than Mary – who is content to just sit and listen to Jesus.
Sometimes Martha – and women like her – are shamed for being hard workers.
It’s not the work ethic that’s the problem. It’s the fact that Martha has become worried, anxious and distracted.
It isn’t wrong to be a planner and an organizer. In fact, without planners, much of the world’s business would never be completed.
It isn’t wrong to care about our homes and to make fabulous meals for our friends and family.
It isn’t wrong to be efficient in our work and do our best.
The problem comes when we’re stressed, overwhelmed and can’t get anyone to help us. That’s when we’re too tired to sit down for a talk with Jesus.
Finding the balance in life is the one of the most important things we can do for our mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical health.
Stress is a killer and when we don’t set healthy boundaries around our time – the world and other people will take advantage of our work ethic.
Check out this article on the effects of stress on the body.
Even something that sounds good can be an over-the-top-stressor and we need to say, “No.”
So let’s not vilify Martha, but let’s learn from her experience.
Let’s organize our time wisely so we CAN do our work effectively. But let’s also make time for joy, for some fun and for that special time with the One who loves us most.
©2016 GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women