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Pointers along the way #126

Mary and Martha
- Jacob Ninan

Those who have listened to many sermons would remember having heard at some time or other a comparison between Mary and Martha based on the incident when Mary was sitting and listening to Jesus. Martha complained to the Lord that Mary was not helping her in all that she was doing for Him, possibly cooking a meal (Lk.10:38-42). Jesus replied that Martha ought not to get worried and bothered about many things but recognise that the one thing that was important was to listen to God.

Now as in many other cases some people blow this incident out of proportion. Some say that cooking, running around to do many things, etc., are all unspiritual, and that only reading and meditating on the word of God, praying, etc., are spiritual. Jesus didn't say that. What He said was that Martha shouldn't get worried and bothered about many things. It also implies that we should know our priorities well and shouldn't get involved in too many things which can drive us crazy. Jesus also made the point that if we would listen to God first before rushing off to do many things, we could be more at rest.

Some others make the point that people like Mary are the spiritual ones, who spend a lot of time reading the Bible, praying, etc., and that those like Martha, who in contrast are very active with doing different things but who don't turn up much at prayer meetings, are carnal. This is very unfair on the Marthas. If we look at the other incident in the Bible involving Martha, we will see what I mean.

When Jesus came to their town after their brother Lazarus had been dead for four days, it was Martha who went out to meet Jesus (Jn.11:20). Mary stayed at home. Was she upset with Jesus? Or was it just her quiet nature? Anyway, when Martha met Jesus, after she lodged her complaint with Him saying that if He had been there Lazarus would not have died (which Mary also expressed later. v.32), she expressed her faith in Him saying even then He could get whatever He asked of God (v.21,22). She confessed Him as the Messiah and the Son of God, which very few people had clarity on (v.27). So this Martha wasn't so carnal after all!

The reason for quickly placing Marys and Marthas into such 'typical' pigeonholes is that of confusing religiosity with spirituality. Also, we tend to wrongly associate certain temperaments with spirituality. For example, we assume that soft-spoken, gentle people are spiritual, while boisterous, impetuous people are carnal. Don't forget that Peter who belonged to the latter group became the leader of the apostles.

'Spirituality' is a matter of the heart, in our relationship with God. What we do and how we are outwardly depend a lot on our temperament and also on our spiritual gift. In the kingdom of God there is need for Marys, Marthas and others also! Each one has something to contribute, and each one has gifts and also lacks.