There are two women in the Bible who I feel represent two sides of every woman. They are Mary and Martha. Mary and Martha are first mentioned in Luke 10:38-42 when Jesus and the 12 disciples decided to stop in and visit, while ‘on their way’.
Martha had a servant heart that was full of action. Mary had a devotional heart that sprang from her time at the feet of Christ. Mary and Martha were not only sisters by blood but they also had a spiritual relationship based on their faith in Christ. I grew up with Marthas, from my grandmother to my mom. But as any Martha can tell you, you need the Mary side of you to be the center point that drives you. The Mary side is the one that sits at the feet of Jesus and lays every care and struggle there. It is the part of you that cries out, “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me, ” and means it with the very depth of your being. The Mary side, the side that allows the Holy Spirit to teach and guide you, is the side that supports the Martha. Being a Martha by nature, God has brought some Marys in my life to remind me of this principle. They have been used to keep me on track. They have shown me again the joy and peace of staying close to God and having that intimate relationship that comes from spending time in the Word of God and from spending time with our face on the floor in prayer.
A Princess…Inside and Out…Crystal
One such Mary is Crystal. I lived with her and her family for a few months before I married. After having spent most of my teenage years in a home of a single mom, God knew I needed to see another side. During those months, I saw a woman who prayed for her husband and children. She had quiet times and enjoyed that time in the Word of God. She opened her home to college students like myself who needed some extra love and attention. She took things lightly and always had a smile on her face. She knew who her source of strength was. She was quick to cast her cares onto Jesus and allow His peace to flow. I know many a prayer was said over me as I struggled with that balance of “I can do it myself” and “I need to allow God to work through me:. She started her day with Jesus and it flowed through everything she did. She sat at the feet of Jesus with her whole heart as Mary did. In Luke 10:39, the word ‘sat’ (parakathezomai) means to ‘to make to sit down’. It is the only time it is used in the Bible. Mary had the same choices as Martha and she made herself choose to sit down at the feet of Jesus. Mary not only physically heard the teachings of Jesus but she also learned from what she heard. She was obedient to His voice. It was not a one time thing. It was active and continual, i.e. she kept on hearing. Mary sat close to Jesus physically and close to Him with her heart to not only hear instructions with her physical ears but to incorporate them into her very being. The words of Jesus became a part of her. Mary and Crystal were yielded to Jesus.
Martha was ‘cumbered’ with serving. Cumbered (perispao) means that she was drawn away. Her actions were good but they were drawing her heart away from Jesus. Martha was said to be doing ‘much serving’. Serving and ministry of helps were Martha’s calling. The gift of hospitality flowed in her life. How many of you invite 12 plus people over for dinner at the last minute! Martha is quickly overwhelmed and goes to Jesus and asks Him to encourage Mary to help (synantilambanomai), i.e. come alongside, share in the bearing, to take hold with another. This word is only used one other time in the New Testament. In Romans 8:24-26, it is used in reference to the Holly Spirit helping us in our weaknesses. Martha was feeling left in a lurch, abandoned, alone in her calling. But was she really? Jesus was right there. Martha was being distracted mentally when she needed to be at the feet of Jesus refreshing her mind and spirit for the calling that was so evident in her life.
“But one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”—Luke 10:42
‘Needful’ comes from ‘chreia’, a noun meaning ‘what is necessary for life.’ It is used in the New Testament in reference to needs of the spirit that only God and the Holy Spirit can fill. (Example Matthew 3:14, Hebrews 7:11, Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31;Romans 12:13; 1 Corinthians 12:21-24). Mary and Crystal chose that good, joyful, excellent, pleasant, agreeable part that is ready to bear fruit in their life. Crystal, like Mary, incorporated the word of Jesus into her heart to such an extent that it ‘shall not be taken away.’
A Princess…Inside and Out…Jen
Mary was transparent with Jesus. Her heart was in passive mode to receive. As a Martha type person, I am usually not passive about anything. Then I met Jen. Jen talked about being ‘transparent’ with God. I thought I was transparent until I heard her talk about it. I heard not only the words but I saw a deeper level of relationship with Jesus in her life. Martha had a relationship with Jesus just like Mary. Jen and Mary chose to open their hearts in such a way that their very lives depended on it. Jen is new in my life. God knew I needed to meet her when I did not know I needed to. With Jen, her life depends on that open transparent relationship with Christ. With us typical Marthas, we are usually ‘capable’ people who as I like to say, ‘Get the job done.’ We need to be reminded that we can only go so far without being more transparent with Jesus and the Holy Spirit and open to the words of Jesus to change us from the inside out. I think Marthas fight this intimacy because we do not want to see what is really in our hearts. You know the areas that we keep only to ourselves. The areas that we are ‘busy’ covering up. Jen reminded me that those areas even existed. We forget that Jesus knows everything about us anyway.
It is at the feet of Jesus and on our knees in prayer and in the word of God that we choose the part that cannot be ‘taken away’.
When we sit at the feet of Jesus with our hearts open to hear and understand His word, then we are changed in such a way that we cannot return to our original state. It is here that the Holy Spirit breaks down every wall and barrier in our heart and mind., It is here that we have joy and peace, It is here that our burdens become light. It is not easy. It means making deliberate choices to spend time in prayer and studying the word of God. It means being willing to change. It means being honest with ourselves. It means as Jen says, being transparent before God. It means reaching out to serve not only physically but with your heart. The rewards are worth it. It it the Mary times that provide the oil that makes the Martha times run. Praise God for the Mary’s in my life!
As you have therefore received Christ, (even) Jesus the Lord, walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him. Have the roots (of your being) firmly and deeply planted (in Him, fixed and founded in Him), being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding and overflowing in it with thanksgiving….Colossians 2:6-8 (Amplified version)
Please share about the Martha’s and Mary’s in your life……