Whenever the Bible speaks about these two ladies ... it is always MARY AND MARTHA, and yet when there is teaching is it often addressed as ‘Are you are MARY OR MARTHA?’ There is often teaching that speaks about Mary being more spiritual than Martha. I myself have been guilty of presenting the spiritual choices of Mary as being the right choice based on the Luke 10 passage. This has always been a challenge to me personally as I am a Martha type and am always challenged to be more like Mary, but secretly want to ask ...”well who is going to get the work done then?”
Just recently as I was reading the book of John and as I re-read their story yet again, I was faced with the perspective of reading across the whole book and seeing that the story of Mary and Martha is not just one story but a number of stories that show other sides to both of these women in Jesus’s life. Of course there is always a danger in making a principle or judgement of a person based on one story. It is evident that Jesus and Mary and Martha, along with their brother Lazarus, were good friends so there is more than one opportunity to learn from their interaction.
So in John 10-11, yes Mary is the one that anoints Jesus feet with expensive perfume, while Martha is again preparing the meal. Once again we can quickly say one act is more spiritual than the other, but why can’t both acts of service be just as valuable? Not long before this meal, when Lazarus had died, it was Martha who ran out to see Jesus first. Yes, she was the one who liked to MAKE things happen, but she was also the one who spoke to Jesus and said that even though her brother was dead, if Jesus came sooner that might not have happened but she continued to say ... “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” She had a strong faith and was a prayerful person as well. All this was happening while Mary was sitting in the house, being consoled by her friends (John 11:17-20). According to The book of John, Mary only went to Jesus when she heard He was “asking” for her. (John 11:28). She asked the same question that Martha did, and they both went with Jesus to the tomb.
I see that they BOTH loved Jesus, they were BOTH faithful servants, they BOTH had compassion and desired to serve others; they simply did it in different ways.
So it is NOT a question of Mary or Martha, but rather Mary and Martha, the BOTH/AND principle again. Sometimes we have to be careful when we put people into boxes and say they can only do some things. God wants us to be BOTH/AND. For example, two of the Here2stay pillars are “Serving in Mission” and “Responding with Compassion.” This is one of those times that the BOTH/AND approach is important. Many people have thought both “pillars” are talking about the same thing. It is true they are similar, but like Mary AND Martha, one without the other is incomplete. If we respond with compassion without serving (DOING) something about it, we can be guilty of paying lip service to a real need. If we serve in mission without being compassionate we may end up doing it for the wrong reasons. Mary AND Martha remind us that at any time, Jesus challenges us that BOTH/AND are important for us to keep in balance.
SCKC is a camp we run in the school holidays for children from challenging backgrounds. We desire to create a week of safe, happy memories for these kids. Some come on team to serve because it makes them feel better about themselves. They often need some sort of reward or thanks for the privilege of their service. Some come on team as a response to the compassion they feel for the kids, but very quickly they come undone emotionally and can’t do anything because they are too upset. The team members who truly make a difference in this ministry are those who come to serve in whatever capacity is required, with a compassionate soft heart for the kids and with the faith of MARY AND words of MARTHA when she said to Jesus “I know that whatever you ask God He will give you.”(vs 22) “All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world” (vs 27).
It is not a question of ‘are you like Mary OR Martha?’ It is the balance of the BOTH/AND that makes the Mary and Martha story so powerful. I want to be like BOTH Mary AND Martha. Click here to read more about here2stay
By Tammy Tolman