A popular book’s title describes the conundrum: Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.
We Christian women know Luke’s account of Jesus stopping in Bethany to visit with Mary and Martha only too well, often seeing ourselves as living a Martha life. We are the ones teaching Sunday school, preparing the Sunday fellowship spread, keeping the church kitchen clean and sparkling, planning the committee agenda … the list goes on. Many of us extend our Martha-ness into other aspects of our lives too … in the classroom or in the office or boardroom.
Had you noticed a simple phrase at the beginning of the story? “…Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.” Martha was a bold woman. She went against the culture and custom of her time—she owned a home. And Jesus went against culture and custom to stop and visit at the home of a woman. We often overlook Martha’s boldness to focus on Mary’s boldness in taking a disciple’s role (also not a role that culture or custom gave to women at that time).
[bctt tweet=”There’s a sting when Jesus seems to prefer Mary’s contemplative approach over Martha’s busyness. ” username=”womenoftheelca”]
So there’s a sting when Jesus seems to prefer Mary’s contemplative approach over Martha’s busyness. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Yet Jesus has validated Martha too, by simply being with her in her home.
It’s not an either or situation. It’s not the active versus the contemplative life. We are all called in the fullness of our lives to move beyond the culture and custom of our time to live a life in service to Jesus.
On our church calendar, we commemorate the lives of Mary, Martha and Lazarus of Bethany on July 29. Let’s leave behind the Mary-Martha conundrum, agreeing to move beyond the culture and custom of our time to live a life in service to Jesus.
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director of Women of the ELCA.
Painting by Diego Velázquez | National Gallery, London – online collection, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9459265