Commonsense Christianity

Quiet, thoughtful, meditative — those are Mary qualities, we say. Gathering Thoughts, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Are you a Mary? Or a Martha?

Actually, it’s a dumb question, especially if you’re male, but if you’re female and you’re in an emotionally charged women’s Bible study focusing on your inhibitions and failures, doubts, anxieties, insecurities, and foibles, you might have to answer this question in a group.

If you don’t want to, that’s fine with me. Personally, I’m not a Mary or a Martha, I’m a Carolyn — a very specific Carolyn — and I really don’t like being categorized or compartmentalized or slotted into little holes. These means that I don’t fit well in groups, but you knew that anyway.

Mary and Martha

In  the Bible, Mary and Martha were two sisters who were noted for 1) being very different from one another and 2) living with their brother Lazarus, who spent a few days in a tomb, dead, before he was called back to life by Jesus.  Jesus spent a significant amount of time with the family, and one gets the idea that they were dear friends.

In this article, we’re going to talk about point number 1 — the differences between Mary and Martha — and what that means for you. Because these two women were, well, women, they are frequently trotted out to half the population of the planet as object lessons, and the object of the lesson is this:

In Luke 10: 38-42, we are told that Martha invited Jesus and His disciples into her home, and while she was busy bustling about doing . . . bustling-about things, her sister Mary was decidedly not helping, because she was sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening.

“But Martha was distracted by all the preparation 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 Has a Point, You Know

Now as the mother of a decent-sized brood, I’m fully in agreement with Martha, and I always thought that Mary could have gotten off her little patootie and helped, that is, if anyone were interested in eating, but Jesus replied:

“‘Martha, Martha . . . you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'”

The same person who can be quiet and meditative one moment, can be outspoken and expressive — Martha-esque — the next. Aphrodite, original painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

I’m glad that they were ordering take-out.

And yes, I do know that the point driven in is that we need to slow down, quit fussing, don’t stress, and focus on Jesus, not the exigencies of life, but I also know this:

Mary is not “better” than Martha, and if you have a tendency to look, and act, like Martha, you are not “inferior” to the Mary’s in your life. John 11: 3, which records the raising of Lazarus, says,

“Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”

What’s most striking about this verse is that Mary isn’t even named, but Martha is. This doesn’t at all mean that Jesus discounts the worth of Mary, but it does imply something about Martha’s worth in Jesus’ eyes:

Jesus. Loved. Martha.

With all her anxiety, fussing, bustling, and distraction: Jesus. Loved. Martha.

“Where WERE You?”

Subsequent verses to this story show Martha heading out to meet Jesus directly (while Mary stayed at home), and telling Him,

“If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11: 21)

Eleven verses later, Mary says exactly the same thing.

When we get down to what really matters — losing a dearly beloved person in life — the two sisters were in complete agreement: they hurt, and they wondered why the One Person who could have prevented the whole thing, didn’t.

Are you Mary — sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening? Or are you Martha — striding out to meet Him, blurting out, “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask,” (John 11: 22), a statement of faith that is as profound and wise as Mary’s attitude of listening and learning.

You’re not Mary, and you’re not Martha, my friend — you’re you, a complex soup of emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. God knows your name, He knows what makes you tick, and He. Loves. You.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity where I want you, my friend, to grow closer and closer to the real Christ, not the substitute that we frequently put up with, simply because that’s what we’re taught. He’s real, He’s caring, He’s compassionate, and He won’t consign you to hell if you swear at the cat. He knows you mess up — that’s why you need Him so much.

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