I was in my late teens when I first heard the story of Mary and Martha.
The Bible says that Jesus was in the town of two sisters and made his way to be their house guest.
Martha welcomed Jesus into their home and immediately began to serve her guests and take care of things that needed to be done around the house.
Mary, instead of helping Martha with all of the duties, plopped down at the feet of Jesus and just started listening to him talk.
I imagine Martha to have been hurrying around diligently trying to make her guests comfortable, preparing a meal and ensuring that everyone had fresh water to drink.
As each minute passed by that Martha was bearing the full burden of host responsibilities, she became a little more bitter with every glance at her sister … just sitting there … doing nothing.
Eventually Martha had enough of her sister’s perceived laziness and turned to Jesus in pure frustration.
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Luke 10:40
At this point in hearing the story, as a teenage girl, my opinion of Martha was that she was way too wound up and needed to relax and lay off her sister. I also thought she was a little obnoxious for “tattling” on her sister as she did.
I know … this opinion was definitely that of a teenager!
A few years ago I listened to the story of Mary, Martha, and their house guest once again.
Several years had passed and I had forgotten about my teenage reaction to the two sisters.
This time, as I heard the preacher tell of how Martha busied herself serving her guests and of how Mary just sat there … I became frustrated with Mary myself. I mean, how rude of her - to just sit there and enjoy the presence of Jesus when her sister was wearing herself out doing all of the work by herself!
I could feel my blood pressure rising and my face becoming hot with irritation the more I identified with Martha.
The pastor continued with the remainder of the story … the part I failed to hear until this moment … the part that shared Jesus’ response to Martha’s emotional tattling.
“But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
This part of the story hit me like a ton of bricks and forced me into a time of serious reflection.
Yes, the expectation in Mary and Martha’s time was that they welcome and serve the needs of their guests.
Martha was simply fulfilling her duty, while at first glance, it would look as though Mary was avoiding responsibility.
In reality, Mary was doing exactly what was necessary in that moment.
As a young girl, not burdened down with life’s responsibilities yet, I could completely empathize with Mary.
As a woman, carrying what felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders, my empathy shifted toward Martha.
Which sister do you relate to today?
Do you relate to Mary, who was just sitting at the feet of Jesus, enjoying the time she had with her guest?
Or, do you relate to Martha, who was just doing what she was supposed to … without any help … and completely missing out on the special time with her guest?
I imagine, if you are anything like me a few years ago, you may be able to relate more closely with Martha.
You are a grown woman.
You have the responsibility of your home, your husband, your children, your job, and countless other duties all falling within your lap.
You would like to “just sit” and enjoy time with your guest, but then, who would actually get all the work done?
You do carry a lot.
You are also right … if you don’t do it … it probably won’t get done.
What was Martha missing out on by simply fulfilling her duties?
What are you missing out on by doing the same?
I ask another question …
What would happen if you gave yourself permission to trade your Martha-like duties for a Mary-like experience at the feet of Jesus?
I imagine in Mary’s time, sitting while a house guest was present was not all-too common.
However, Mary had a realization that somehow her sister missed. She realized her guest was not just any house guest … he was Jesus.
Mary knew enough to know that Jesus had made time to come to their home and be in their presence. She also knew enough to know that Jesus had something important to offer her and she was willing to put off her usual duties long enough to find out what it was.
So, she gave herself permission to sit … to sit at the feet of Jesus.
When was the last time you gave yourself permission to just sit … to sit at the feet of Jesus?
Jesus was in her home and Martha was busy cooking, cleaning, and hosting.
Mary was sitting and resting at the feet of her guest.
If we could go back in time and ask the two sisters to share with us what Jesus was doing and saying while he was there … what would they say?
Martha may have been too busy to really have grasped what was happening.
Mary was sitting and resting and could most likely share details about her encounter with Jesus.
Are you too busy to grasp what Jesus is trying to do in your life? Are you too busy to hear what he is trying to say to you?
When was the last time you gave yourself permission to rest in the presence of Jesus?
Mary and Martha lived in a time when it was common for women to serve and to give. It was less common for women to be the ones who were served and given to.
So, of course, when Martha hurried around the house serving and taking care of the needs of her guest, she was only doing what she was taught to do.
Mary is the sister who had to go against what was naturally ingrained in her to be able to sit and rest at the feet of Jesus.
While she was sitting there, scripture says she “heard his word.”
Jesus was pouring out his words and his wisdom and Mary was allowing herself to hear and be poured into.
Mary was allowing herself to receive exactly what Jesus came to give.
Scripture even tells us that what Mary was doing was what was necessary for the moment.
Are you too busy serving and pouring out to be poured into?
When was the last time you gave yourself permission to receive what Jesus has come to give you?
There will always be laundry to wash, fold, and put away.
There will always be dishes needing to be cleaned.
There will always be things left undone that need done.
There will always be a need for a Martha-like mentality so that homes and families can continue to function well.
However, there are times when having a Mary-like mindset is necessary.
Jesus said that Mary chose the “good part.”
Friends, today, choose the “good part” like Mary did.
Give yourself permission to sit at the feet of Jesus.
Give yourself permission to rest in his presence.
Give yourself permission to receive what he has for you.
It is necessary.