Mary in a Martha World

Most of us are like one or the other of two sisters—Martha and Mary. Martha thought the way to fulfillment was serving a perfect Julia Child meal in a spotless house decorated by a trendy designer. Mary just wanted to make her guests feel welcome, as if they were part of the family. If Martha plays her cards right, she may gain the whole world and a reality TV show. All Mary wants to do is live well, love well and be loved by her Lord. Who are you?

We all know hostesses who fuss over the perfect meal and table, yet don’t relax enough to enjoy their guests. But there are others who, though their gifts of decorating and cooking may be lacking, make visitors feel exceptionally welcome and valued.

Consider: What is the reason for a Christian to entertain guests? Is it our goal to impress? Or are we seeking to bless our guests and encourage them so they feel loved?

In the New Testament, we meet two sisters, Mary and Martha. These women exemplify the differing approaches—blessing vs. impressing. The writer Luke tells us about a time the siblings hosted a group of people, including a special guest, Jesus, a great and wise teacher. The sisters wanted to honor their guests but disagreed on how to do it.

Here’s the passage:

“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 felt it was important to prepare a fine meal while Mary felt it was more important to give something more valuable—her undivided attention. When Martha grew frustrated she complained to Jesus, asking Him to make Mary help her. His response? That Mary had chosen the better way to serve by paying attention to His teaching rather than rushing about consumed by busyness. He saw Mary’s pure heart and desire to please Him. She made it clear to all in the room that day how much she valued knowing Him and His teachings.

Earlier in my career, I was an editor for a national interior design publisher. I produced hundreds of design stories, including makeovers of readers’ rooms. I worked in and around some of the most beautiful homes in the country and met all kinds of women. Some wanted homes that served their family with function, form and beauty but others wanted a home that served their ego and competitive spirit. For the latter, creating a beautiful space was an obsession.

Even after the peak of the DIY design craze a few years ago, we still see an incredible number of people searching the Web to build up envious pin boards and blogs. Now the diversions include interiors, foods, clothing and self-improvement. Hours are spent searching to locate the perfect wallpaper, to-die-for furniture and the perfect shoes or body. Researchers find that depression among women can actually be rooted in comparing what we have—or don’t have—with others. It’s a futile act of coveting and competing that leads to disappointment.

Granted, if done in moderation, it can be a fun hobby or career. But don’t allow the important things in life to come second, third or lower on your list. The things that matter in life are family, friends and a relationship with Jesus Christ. When these relationships don’t get the attention they require, life becomes distorted and joy wastes away.

It’s easier than ever to be a Martha in this skin-deep world. Become a Mary.

Finding Fulfillment

Things that matter

1. Does Jesus know your name? Are you written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?

2. Are you saved? “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

3. Will God greet your with the words, “Well done, My faithful servant?”

4. Are you making an eternal difference?

5. Do you serve others—the poor, the hurting, the lost—by letting them see Christ in you?

Things that won't matter in the end

• Home decorating

• Career

• Wealth

• Hair

• Clothing

• A cute boyfriend/husband

• Whether you’re hot

• Education

• Popularity

• Diamonds or jewelry

• Social media or Pinterest

• Obsessing over your body

• Vacations

• Television

• Number of shoes

• Fame

Seven Steps to Fulfillment

1. Make God your priority. Matthew 6: 25 & 33

2. Know your purpose. Romans 12:2

3. Love Him like your life depends on it. 1 John 4:16

4. Stop following the world. 1 John 2:15

5. Read the Bible. If you don’t know what Scripture says, you can’t follow it. Romans 15:4

6. Trust the Bible is true. Matthew 5:18

7. Reduce the risk of temptation. Don’t be owned by your stuff, the mall or Pinterest. Luke 12:15