Whether you’ve read the account of Jesus’ encounter with Martha and Mary many times or you’ve never read it, you’re going to want to read it carefully now. As we look at it, we are going to focus on the two different responses the sisters had to Jesus. One was consumed by her distractions and worries while the other sat still and listened. As you read, examine yourself to see which sister you are more like.
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” — Luke 10:38-42 NASB
We may read this and be quick to say, “If I had the chance to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to Him, I would do it. I wouldn’t do what Martha did.” But if we were honest with ourselves, I think we would find that we are usually like Martha, not Mary.
Martha’s Response to Jesus
I’m sure Martha knew who Jesus was when she saw Him in the village. She invited Him into her home and welcomed Him, but then she left Him to get to work. Many of us recognize Jesus and welcome Him into our lives. We say a prayer, get baptized, and go to church every Sunday, but then we leave Him to get to work.
When we are young, our responsibilities are school and play. As we get older, we have college and jobs, and eventually we have jobs and families. Life is busy, and it only seems to get busier as we get older.
But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” — Luke 10:40 NASB
“Distract” means “to drag all around.” It can be everything that pulls us away from what we should be doing so that all of our focus is on that distraction. Martha let her preparations draw her away from being still and listening to the words of the Son of God. I think we are all guilty of being distracted with preparations just like Martha was.
When Martha saw that her sister Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, what was her response? She basically said, “It’s not fair that I’m doing all the hard work. Tell her to help me.” This reminds me of a little kid doing chores while the younger sibling gets to play video games. The child looks at his parents and says, “That’s not fair.”
Maybe you’ve even seen someone do that as an adult. Someone is working hard at their job, and the boss gives them an extra load of work. Meanwhile, a coworker, who barely does anything as it is, isn’t required to work any harder. Our natural response is “That’s not fair.”
Look at what Jesus says to Martha:
But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” — Luke 10:41-42 NASB
Martha didn’t have her priorities straight. She was so focused on her preparations that she was missing out on listening to the Word of God. Jesus said she was worried and bothered about so many things. How many of us can say the same thing about ourselves? I know I can.
Life is busy, and life is messy. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of things that we can find to worry about and be bothered by. We worry about school, and we worry about our future. We worry about our family or what we’re going to make for dinner that evening. Matthew 6:25-34 says do not worry about your life or what you will eat, drink, or wear. Verse 33 says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Martha didn’t understand that, but Mary did.
Mary’s Response to Jesus
Martha had a sister named Mary “who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word” (Luke 10:39). That word “listening” means “to attend to, consider what is or has been said” and “to comprehend, to understand.” Instead of getting caught up in the worries of life, Mary sat at the feet of the Son of God and listened to His words. What a wonderful thought!
Jesus told Martha that only one thing is necessary: listening to His words with a heart willing to receive them. Mary understood that time spent sitting still at Jesus’ feet and taking in every single word was the most important thing. She longed to hear His words, and Jesus said they would never be taken away from her.
Are you Martha or Mary?
We have the chance to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His words through the Bible. Do you spend time reading God’s Word like Mary listened to Jesus, or do you allow preparations to distract you like Martha did?
It’s so easy to let our worries and our to do lists of life draw us away from the only thing that is necessary: a relationship with Jesus. I know it is because I’ve let it happen to me many times.
However, it is my hope and prayer that we all have a longing for Jesus’s words like Mary did. It is my prayer that we don’t let our worries or busy lives distract us from Him, and it is my hope that when we do get distracted, He will remind us of the only thing that is necessary.
If this is your prayer too, take a moment to actually pray about it before you do anything else. Pray that God would give you a heart like Mary’s who desired His Word.
If God used these lessons from Martha and Mary’s lives to teach you something about Him, go tell someone else about it. Share this post with them or tell them what you’ve learned, and don’t forget to spend time in the Word yourself.
Your sister in Christ,