Mary, Martha, and the Thing that Matters Most

December 25, 2016

Categories: Relationships

There’s a great story in the Gospel of Luke that can teach us an important lesson about how best to connect with each other and with God. Here’s what happened:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 38-42).

There is an interesting dichotomy between Mary and Martha. Martha was busy doing a lot of things for Jesus, but Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him. Jesus said Mary chose what was better. Often in my life, I focus on what I’m doing for God. I remember when I was in college, I judged how I was doing with God based on things like how long I was reading the Bible each day, or how much I was sharing my faith. Those aren’t bad things, but it was a very Martha-like way of engaging with God. And just like Martha from the story, I got grumpy and didn’t enjoy my relationship with God very much.

Instead of busying ourselves and focusing on what we are doing for God, the example of Mary teaches us that it is more important to be with God. Instead of taking on another ministry responsibility, what about spending time in prayer with God, relaxing, and enjoying the friendship? According to Jesus, this would be a better route to take.

I think this story can also offer a lesson about how best to engage with the people we are in relationship with. How do you best connect with your family, friends, spouse, and children? You might think it is important to do a lot of things for the people in your life. For example, perhaps you work long hours so you can buy your spouse nice things, or provide your children with opportunities you didn’t have yourself. These aren’t necessarily bad things, but it is a Martha-like way of engaging with the people in your life.

Instead, I think a better way to engage with the people you are in relationship with is to prioritize spending time with them. Like Mary, be physically present with the people who are important to you. Sit with them, look them in the eye, listen to them, and ask questions about their lives, hopes, and dreams. If you want to build a relationship, there is no substitute for putting in the hours. Prioritize this above everything else.

Discussion: In your relationship with God, do you tend to be more like Mary or Martha? In your relationships with the people who are important to you, do you tend to be more like Mary or Martha? What is one step you could take to be more like Mary in your relationship to God and others?


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