An Important Lesson From Mary And Martha In The Bible

Our worlds are hectic and busy, we have been pulled in a dozen different directions as we try to serve others, and yet the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible is the perfect one for this season of our lives. It is so hard to have a Mary heart -one that remembers to seek God first- in a Martha world that begs for our time and energy. You feel as if every day is one step forward and ten steps back. An inch forward and a mile back. Dishes piled high in the sink like mini skyscrapers, Cheerios scattered under the table like little minefields, Hot Wheels, and dolls interspersed with Lego’s forming an obstacle course on the carpet that you swore you just vacuumed. It looks like a toy war zone and don’t even get started on that pile of laundry that is overflowing the hamper.

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The story of Mary and Martha in the Bible is probably one of the better know stories of women in the Bible, and yet it’s easy to miss the pearls of wisdom this story holds for us in our everyday lives, but let’s stop a moment and climb into the page to linger on the dusty streets of Bethany, where we meet a woman named Martha and through her, her sister Mary.

Mary And Martha Bible Passage

The passage we find the first story of Mary and Martha in the Bible can be found in Luke 10, these 5 verses unpack and tell the story of these women and their encounter with Jesus: 

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 asked, “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 and upset 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 NIV

Martha is the picture of southern hospitality, she’s welcoming and warm, opening her home to these strangers. I would love to know how she met Jesus for the first time. Was she the time to welcome all strangers in their village or did she sense something special about Jesus? What did she feel when she looked into the eyes of the one that had formed her in her mother’s womb, which knew every joy and every tear she’d ever cried? 

Who Is Mary And Martha In The Bible?

Mary and Martha in the Bible are the sisters of Lazarus (who Jesus later raises from the dead, you can read his story in John 11), they lived in Bethany. The Bible doesn’t go into much of their story, sadly. But in typical Bible fashion, there is so much we can get out of this short story about Mary And Martha in the Bible. 

Mary And Martha Characteristics

Whatever the reason she welcomed Jesus and His disciples into her home and made them welcome. But scripture goes on to tell us that While Martha scurried around the house preparing a meal and ensuring that everyone was comfortable, her sister Mary wasn’t helping. Instead, Mary of Bethany was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to His teachings. Instead of serving their guests, Mary was listening attentively. 

I don’t know about you, but when we have guests staying with us and I’m trying to get a meal cooked, ensure everyone is comfortable and keep the house generally under control I want all of the help I can get. I love how the picture presented to us in the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible is so relatable.  When you are trying to do it all it can be so frustrating when people aren’t helping the way we think they should. We are trying to serve others after all, but we can’t do it all on our own. We can’t meet everyone else’s needs. 

It’s so easy to get caught up in the serving, the hands-on work, the everyday acts of service that we miss a more important moment. I love Jesus’s response when Martha in the Bible comes to Him: “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset 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.” He isn’t angry with her, He doesn’t mock her, He knows where her heart is, He knows that she is trying to serve everyone and keep all of the balls in the air. And yet gently He reminds her of what is more important. I love how you can almost hear Jesus’s tone of voice in this passage, the gentle love of a parent reminding Martha of what is truly important. Martha… Martha… I love you. Spend time with me. 

Yes, service is important, caring for others and our families is a great calling and responsibility. But spending time with our Lord and Savior is even more important. We can’t be the Martha our loved ones need without first being a Mary. Because the truth is we aren’t perfect, we are flawed- they need Him. They need us to be Jesus with skin on, and the only way we can be that is by being with Him. Hospitality and service must begin with time with Christ.

How Mary And Martha In The Bible Relate To Our Lives

I Can’t play kids, I have so much to do… Like wheels spinning through mud, you wade through the same chores over and over. Cringing at the sound of spilled toy logs and squeals as small feet race through the back door the pup on their heels leaving a trail of mud in their wake. A sigh escapes your lips at the cupcake that slips from your little girl’s hands and lands on the freshly mopped floor. You turn as the boys come running across the living room in their matching adventurer hats. Laundry explodes in all directions as the boys catapulted into it laughing with delight.


You feel your blood pressure rising. You are getting angry. Indignant. Losing your cool. You lost your temper and the kids aren’t laughing anymore. Tears run down your face as you hide in the pantry for just a moment, hiding from the chores glaring their accusations at you.


The broom sits leaning against the island where you left it to check the laundry and get it folded. You shake your head as the negative self-talk starts. You can’t do anything right. Man, it is just a simple task to sweep the floor and look at you. Eating Oreos and hiding. If you were a better mom… a better wife… better.

“Why is mommy so upset?” comes from the other room. You hear sniffles as they run off to the other part of the house. Let’s make her a present. You cry harder thinking of yet one more mess that you are going to be stuck with yet again. How often do we sacrifice the God moments because we are so busy being Martha? Neither Mary nor Martha were wrong in their actions, but only Mary took the time to be filled before serving others.

What Does It Mean To Be A Mary Or A Martha?

There are many great takeaways from the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible, but one of the biggest maybe will you be Martha who was too busy serving others to spend time with Christ- or will you be Mary who prioritized her time with Him.

Are You A Mary Or A Martha?

Instead of sitting at Jesus’s feet like Mary. We get caught up in ensuring everything is running smoothly. Everyone is taken care of, fed, clothed, and all of the balls stay spinning in the air in a great juggling act. All the while our own hearts need ministering to. The amazing lesson in the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible isn’t that one is wrong, but a reminder that Martha needed to be refilled too. We can’t serve others when we are empty and exhausted. Don’t forget to curl up at your savior’s feet and let Him fill your heart and soul once more.

The truth is time is short and fleeting. In the grand scheme of things Martha was spending her time creating a single meal that would be consumed and forgotten, but Mary chose to feed her soul. Jesus knew that time was fleeting. The Bible says that our lives are like a mist here one moment and gone the next. He knew that He would not always be there with them and that Mary chose wisely in spending time sitting at Jesus’ feet and relishing the moment. Of taking in every word while He was there. Taking time to be fully present. This is one of the most important things we can learn from the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible.

Take time to laugh and smile as you clean the icing on your little girls’ face. Share the giggles as you watch the joy on your son’s face as he and the pup play in the mud, his arm slung across her shoulders, and whispering in her ear ‘that’s my boy, Spot’. Watch with wonder as the best adventure since Indiana Jones is happening across the deserts of Africa, or the jungles of South America,  as the intrepid adventurers run from danger and straight into the folded laundry pile. Spend time with your savior.

Be present when tiny hands pulling at you for the thousandth time begging you to watch them as they attempt to leap tall buildings in a single bound to save the world and join them for a tea party. Relish the ordinary moments, and find a medium between Martha & Mary.


Our Lesson From The Story Of Mary And Martha In The Bible

Enjoy that moment, be there… really there. One of the biggest things we can take away from the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible is to be present, another is the fact that how we spend our time is important.

Sometimes the world needs a Martha, someone to tackle the laundry, clean the house, wash the dishes, care for others, offer hospitality, and scrub the places the kiddos missed- but sometimes the world needs a Mary someone who can sit and listen. Martha can never teach your children to follow Christ through good times and bad only Mary who sits at Christ’s feet and listens to His voice can teach them that. Mary could be Jesus with skin on, Mary could minister to those she was caring for in more ways than a simple meal because she took the time to spend a moment with her Lord. Take the time and be a bit of both, this is what we should take away from the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible. Learn to savor those fleeting moments.



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