“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’” -Luke 10:38-42
Yesterday’s lectionary reading
was the classic story of two sisters: Mary-the lazy one and Martha-the
busy one. Ok, maybe that’s coming from the perspective of being a Martha
myself, so looking at it from Mary’s perspective the story is about
Mary-the zen one and Martha-the crazy one who can’t take a break for two
My husband put a poll on his church’s Facebook yesterday and asked his church members to vote: are you Mary or are you Martha.
This was the image he used for Mary:
This was the image he used for Martha:
So…which one are you?
As I shared at the beginning, I am often the Martha.: doing a million things at once, not taking a break when I need to, and certainly not always stopping to smell the roses…or at least Martha is definitely my default (my sister, who is definitely a Martha might beg to differ based on how clean I kept our shared room giving up). So this story always bugged me because Mary gets all of Jesus’ glory for just sitting there when Martha is just trying to make sure everything is nice for his visit.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I can also see where Jesus is coming from in praising Mary for valuing quality time with him, for not getting distracted by the details, and for not getting caught up with worries about appearance of their home. I WISH I could be a Mary! She doesn’t seem to have ac care in the world, and I think she is the one in the story who gets it. My friends always tell me, “I don’t care what your house looks like, we’re friends,” but no matter how hard I try to let it go, I still have to clean up when they are coming over.
So…which one are you? Mary or Martha? Which one is better? Should we all try to be Mary’s: taking quality time with God and our friends and not worrying about managing our household? Should we all try to be Martha’s: making sure everyone is taken care of by paying attention to the details and working hard?
After honest reflection, I think we should all be a little bit of both. Jesus is not completely condemning Martha here nor is he completely glorifying Mary. Jesus is pointing out the importance of life balance and prioritizing people. I’m sure we are missing the part of the story where Mary helps Martha do some chores, and I’m sure we are missing the part of the story where Martha sits down and has a nice chat with God. We aren’t getting the whole picture here, and instead we end up pitting sister against sister, and feeling bad about being the “wrong sister” in the story. What Jesus wants for us is a balanced life, where we are doing the work that needs to be done, and then also taking a Sabbath break to refresh and refuel. Jesus wants us to spend time with him because he loves us and so that we are spiritually fueled to do the work we are called to do.
So in this last month or so of Summer, how are you making time to be both Mary and Martha? How are you making sure your to-do list gets done, but also making time for God, family, friends, and yourself?
It is my prayer that the Marys and Marthas of the world can learn from each other so that we can all live more fully into the love God calls us to be and do. Amen.