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Mary and Martha, a Study in Choice, Envy and Time with God!

A Year in the Spiritual Life... Discover Your Purpose: Mary and Martha, a Study in Choice, Envy and Time with God!


Mary and Martha, a Study in Choice, Envy and Time with God!

Today, I will delve into a study about Mary and Martha. You can find the story of Mary and Martha in three places in the Bible, Luke 10, John 11, and John 12. Please read these to see the larger picture of this family.

The Back Story

Mary and Martha were sisters, from the same gene pool, but cut from different cloth. Mary was the younger sister, and it seems the thinker in the family rather than the doer Martha was. Martha was known as the woman of the house, and her name even means lady of the house. Mary, whose name means Lady or wise woman is known for sitting at the Master’s feet.

Now somewhere along Jesus’ ministry, He became good friend with these two sisters, and their brother Lazarus. He ate with them regularly, and this was one of the places He stayed when ministering in Jerusalem. We know this because of the familiarity with which Martha speaks to Jesus and Lazarus’ place at the table. “Lord, tell her…” We also know that there were no parents in the home, that neither Mary nor Martha were married and they seemed to be independently wealthy (Those oils Mary used on Jesus were extremely expensive and only the wealthy could afford them).

We also know that Jesus had a special love for them, and the emotions He felt toward them moved Him to risk entering the city when it was both extremely dangerous for Him to do so and those same emotions moved Him to weep when He heard Mary’s grief over her brother’s death. Let’s list out what we know so far.

A Closer Look

Student of Jesus
Student of Jesus
Focused on learning
Focused on serving
Anointed Jesus’ feet as an act of love and prophecy which glorified God.
Proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah and her faith brought God glory
Attitude of worship
An attitude

There are ways in which these two are different, but in most ways they are very similar.  The main thing that separates them is an attitude of worship vs. an attitude.

When Mary and Martha were in Jesus’ presence (the three times recorded in the Bible) twice Mary worshipped and Martha, only the once, when she declared her faith in who Jesus was, the Messiah, and even then she first had an attitude. She seemed to want to spend more time with Jesus, and the subtext I read in Luke is that she was frustrated not that the housework and serving wasn't getting done, but that she could sit at Jesus’ feet, and thought Mary shouldn't be allowed to either.  
Mary anointing Jesus' feet

It seems that the “it’s not fair, she got more than me” syndrome was alive and well between these two sisters. But whose fault was it that Martha did not get a larger portion? Martha’s. Jesus was clear: Mary chose the better part.

So when we see other people at church and think they have “more Jesus” than us, whose problem is that? The problem is ours! I know that when I have compared myself to others spiritually, I never seemed to hit the mark. Somehow, I did not seem to get a “fair” portion of God’s presence, or favor, like others did. 

This was not true of course, but my miss-perception. 

This is why the 10 commandments say “Thou shalt not covet”. 

The heart issue of envy is one that gets in the way of God actively working in our lives and in fact the Bible says where there is envy and strife, there is every evil work. So stop comparing yourself to others. This practice will only bring dissatisfaction and strife and this is not the will of the Father for you. His will (plan) is full of hope and peace.  

Martha did not have peace because she envied her sister’s time with Jesus, and she could have had that same time. The chores could have waited for an hour. Her guests would not have starved. When we prioritize our time with God above all the other things in our life, a funny thing happens: we begin to grow. That is what was needed: Time with God!

Stop comparing yourself with other people and get in God’s presence and let Him work on you. He is faithful to complete the good work He started. So Mary or Martha, CHOOSE to spend time with God. CHOOSE to let go of envy, and prioritize your life to worship Him.

Join the Conversation: 

Which one are you: Mary or Martha? 

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