Often we hear the question, “Are you a Mary or a Martha?” However, scripture refers to Mary and Martha – not Mary or Martha. We are not required to live exclusively like Mary or Martha. We are given the privilege of exemplifying character traits of both women.
Mary and Martha were sisters. Although closely related, they had very different personalities. If I were to choose a scripture to describe Mary, I would quote Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” For Martha, I would select Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world….”
Martha was frequently looked down upon because of a conversation she had with Jesus in Luke 10. Jesus had come to the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus for a visit. Martha was frustrated because Mary exclusively spent time with Jesus while she had to prepare the whole meal by herself. In Luke 10:40, Martha asked, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me!” Jesus’ responded in verses 41-42, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. But only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.”
When Jesus came to their home, each woman chose how she would honor their guest. Mary chose to sit with Jesus and listen to His wisdom. She wanted to learn everything possible from the man who was her Savior and Lord. According to Romans 11:6, we are saved by grace, not by works. She was hungry for spiritual nourishment. Martha chose to prepare a meal for Jesus and His disciples. She wanted to nourish their physical hunger.
Jesus complimented Mary for making a good choice. Today, a person with a Mary personality would desire to spend time with Jesus through praise and prayer. According to Psalm 22:3, the Lord inhabits the praises of His people. Psalm 100:2 tells us to “Serve the LORD with gladness; come into His presence with joyful songs.” Verse 4 goes on to say, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and bless His name.”
Martha’s actions concerned Jesus only because she allowed responsibility to take priority over relationship. Serving is not a bad option. An individual with Martha traits today might remember James 2:26, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.” Paul exhorts in I Thessalonians 5:13-14, “Now, we ask you, brothers, to respect these who work hard among you,… Hold them in highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.”
Like Mary and Martha, we have a choice. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with Me.” How will we choose to honor Jesus when we answer His knock on our heart’s door?
Will we want to spend One on one time with Him? If so, we may make our choice based upon Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” We may also validate our choice according to Jesus’ words in John 6:35. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.”
Our other option would be to express our love for Jesus by satisfying and gratifying physical needs of others. This decision may be based upon Isaiah 58:10. “If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” We might also remember the conversation in Matthew 25:37-40. “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”
It is good for us to begin our day sitting at Jesus’ feet and studying the Word. Then we will be ready to put feet to our faith while fulfilling our responsibilities. Works are not the reason for salvation. Works are the evidence of salvation. James 2:17 NLT points out, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”
We are not required to just make a one-time choice of being a Martha or a Mary. God created each of us to be a mixture of Martha and Mary. Does your character better exemplify one woman over another? God has placed within you specific gifts and talents. Embrace who God created you to be. Do not be jealous of a Mary if you are more of a Martha. Do not look down upon a Martha if you have more of a Mary personality. Some say we need to have a Mary heart in a Martha world. We each must discern what is required of us in a particular situation. Sometimes we need to strengthen our spiritual heart like Mary. Other times we need to manifest our servant heart like Martha.
Matthew 6:33 NLT is a good scripture for us to remember. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously.” Our life’s goal should be I Corinthians 16:14. “Do everything in love.”