Posted by: ritagone | February 21, 2018

Mary and Martha and Me



Everyone who has read the New Testament at least a few times is familiar with the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42, where Jesus and His disciples were traveling along by foot and came to the village of Bethany, where Martha welcomed Him into her home.  And her sister Mary, the text says, immediately sank to His feet and was listening to what He had to say.  Martha, on the other hand, was the domestic goddess, preparing the meal for however many people had “dropped by” that day.  After all, someone had to do it!  And the preparation left her distracted and disturbed.  She went up to Jesus when she had had enough, obviously out of sorts, and said to Him (and not to Mary, notice): “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?  Then tell her to help me.”


Oh, I can so relate to Martha!  At first glance, and especially if you tend to be a “Martha” type, you feel this is obviously fair.  Why should Martha be left doing all the work while Mary gets to sit at the Teacher’s feet and absorb His teaching?  It’s just not fair!  And doesn’t He see that it’s just not fair?  What’s wrong with Him?  He needs to straighten this mess out and rescue me, shame Mary, put things back on the right path where they belong…where I say they belong!

Instead, “the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’”

Christ is telling Martha, and us, that we need to simplify our lives, focusing on the one thing that matters so that our passion for Him can have an opportunity to grow.

He is telling us that we can get distracted from Him even in the midst of serving Him.  Like Martha, we can take our eyes off of the One we’re serving and onto all of our preparations, whether that’s meal preparations or sermon preparations.  Like Martha, we can get angry, even in our volunteer work, that someone has left us to do all the serving alone.  Like Martha, we can stomp out of the kitchen, into some committee meeting, and start telling people off.

The vacation Anne Morrow Lindbergh once took on an East Coast beach, which she chronicled in her book Gift from the Sea, offers an excellent model for reflective living.  It is full of wit and wisdom and rich reflections about life.  In this reflection she raises the same question the Mary and Martha passage raises, showing how universal the struggle is.

“I begin to understand,” she writes, “why the saints were rarely married women.  I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children.  It has to do primarily with distractions.  The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls – woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life.  The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence.  It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life…”

How do we remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life? It’s a question we all wrestle with.  But for Christians the question goes deeper.  In the midst of the distractions of life, how do we remain wholly devoted to Christ?

We do what Mary did.

We make a choice to sit at Christ’s feet. That is where the “many things” we are involved in are brought into submission to the “one thing that is necessary.”

This is a constant battle, one I unfortunately too often lose.  But I fight on, because it’s worth it.  To win it is to win the small skirmish that allows me to be still and listen to what Jesus wants to say to me in a whisper that I might miss altogether.


  1. Amen, Rita. Paul knew centuries before Anne Morrow Lindbergh that Marriage brought the necessary concerns of pleasing one’s spouse which was distracting to devotion to Christ. (I Cor. 7:32-35)


    Len Sunukjian

    FishBowl Ministries

    64 La Cumbre Circle

    Santa Barbara, CA 93105-4442

    Cell: 805.390.0993


  2. Good reminder, friend!!

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