Blessed are the Balanced! (Mary & Martha)

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Introduction: Luke emphasized the humanity of Jesus. It is only appropriate that many of the teachings of Jesus which Luke recorded show us how to live a human life in union with God.

Luke contains some of the best-known stories about Jesus’ life. Here find the story of the Good Samaritan, the Lord’s Prayer and the conflict between the sisters Mary and Martha,

In these paragraphs of Luke we begin to understand more of what spirituality is not—and how to live our lives in union with our God.

Luke 10:38-42 (NRSV) Martha is the first person seen, and she has a highly commendable character. It is said that "Jesus loved Martha" (John 11:5). Therefore, it is important to see the strong points of her character, and to see what it was that caused a person who was so strong to fail.

Luke 10:38-42 (NRSV) 38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." 41 But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

a.    Martha was a giving person. Note that she owned a house so large she could give lodging to Jesus and His apostles. Taking care of so many was expensive, yet she willingly entertained them.

b.    Martha was a courageous person. It was now dangerous to associate too closely with Jesus, especially around Jerusalem. The authorities were seeking some way to kill Jesus (see John 7:25, 30, 32). Many of His own disciples had forsaken Him (John 5:66) and others were now speaking against Him (John 7:20, 43-44). Even His own family had rejected Him (John 7:3-5). Nevertheless, Martha welcomed Him; she was willing to let the world know of her devotion to Him.

c.    Martha was a caring and loving person. She loved and cared for her sister Mary. Note that Mary was living with Martha, and that her brother Lazarus was also living there (John 11:1). For some unknown reason, Martha was taking care of them both. She felt a deep devotion for her family, loving and caring for them very much.

There are a whole lot of lessons in this little bit of word!

Point 1: 38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.

THE CONDUCT OF CHRIST IS TO BE CONSIDERED. It is observable that as soon as He entered the house, He attended to the great work for which He came into the world.

Jesus began to do what I believe was one of his most important jobs. He began to teach, how do we know this?

Point 2: . 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying.

People normally sat on chairs or, at banquets, reclined on couches; but disciples sat at the feet of their teachers.

 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me."

Point 3: 41 But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha.

There are several notable instances of this repetition of the name by the Master in the New Testament story, and in each case, every time that he said it, Jesus spoke in pitying love. Remember in the word were he said “Simon, Simon,” in Lu 22:31, and “Saul, Saul,” in Ac 9:4.

Jesus was teaching, and if you turn to the words and meaning of our Lord. They are not to be taken as words in a sermon, but as words spoken in the quiet atmosphere of the house, with holy emphasis attached to them. “Martha, Martha! Why are you troubled so? My coming has proved indeed a burden to thee.

When Jesus pays a visit, if you have some things within you that are not ready to receive him, his very presence can become a burden!

Martha wanted our Lord to tell Mary to rise from sitting at His feet, and come and help in the preparation of the meal; she was grudging her the place she had taken.

Consider the words about Mary. The Lord replies: “Oh Martha! only look. It is not the seat of honour; it is the lowliest place. It is at My feet.

She has not taken thy place as head of the house, but simply the retired place, the place of a disciple, at his feet—the humblest place there was at the table. She has chosen that good place which shall not be taken from her.” 

So many lessons are there within these verses! Sometimes, even the best of the saints lose perspective and direction because we are so busy trying to serve that we forget to be servants!

Nowhere does our Bible say that Martha was a bad person, nowhere do any words describe her as worthless or wicked, You cannot find anywhere within scripture anything that says that she had bad intentions.

Yet still with all that she had going for her she was selfish in desires even as she was doing what she thought was right!

Point 4: OBSERVE, HOW IMPROPER IT IS FOR A FOLLOWER OF THE LORD JESUS TO BE SELFISH. Mary who hears His word pleases Him better than Martha who prepares His meal: read your Bible, Jesus would rather feed than be fed.

Now let me pause a moment to set up what I am about to say, I want to let you know that I am not one of these preachers who see spirits around every corner. We have too many people who stand in the pulpit and blame everything that they cannot explain on every kind of demonic force imaginable. So many preachers fill the pulpit with words that are seemingly deep, but never defined!

Now demons and demonic activity are real and biblical but so often I find that rather than pray, fast, and go to the word for answers, we see spirits everywhere and blame them for all of our problems. Sometimes it seems that we find it so easy to blame all that lives around us than to repent and change within us!

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Has among its definitions of the word “spirit”. . . .(1) the activating or essential principle influencing a person 〈acted in a spirit of helpfulness〉. . . (2) prevailing tone or tendency (spirit of the age).

I want you to understand just what I mean when I say this. . . . .The Spirit of Mary . . .and the Spirit of Martha are still alive with in our churches even today!

When I say the Spirit of Martha. . .when I say the Spirit of Mary. . . .I am not talking demons, I am talking about demonstrations! What we do as believers speaks a whole lot louder than what we say!

THE MARTHA SPIRIT IS STILL VERY PREVALENT IN THE CHURCH and if we are not careful it can spread among us all.

There is a considerable tendency among Christian people, in serving Christ, to aim at making a fair show in the flesh. Jesus would be better pleased with a grain of love than a heap of ostentatious service.


1. It brings the least welcome offering to Christ.

2. It brings self too much to remembrance.

The Martha spirit shows itself in those who get mad and attack those who come to church not looking to be entertained! If you can’t act a certain way, if you somehow find yourself unable to make a lot of noise there is a spirit of Martha that lives in some people in the church that makes you think that something is wrong with you and your relationship to God.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with persons who are careful about Christ’s word, who stand up for the doctrines of the gospel, who desire to maintain the ordinances as they were delivered unto them and who are scrupulous and thoughtful, and careful concerning the truth as it is in Jesus.

The spirit that is Martha gets mad at and goes to Jesus concerning Mary.

Mary, treasuring Up every word of Christ, Mary, counting each syllable a pearl, is reckoned to be unpractical, if not altogether idle. The Spirit of Martha will make you feel that quiet contemplation, worship, and growth in grace are not unimportant. I look around and I get scared at some of the things that I see in the modern day church. I pray we shall not give way to the spirit which despises our Lord’s teaching, for if we do, in prizing the fruit and despising the root we shall lose the fruit and the root too.

Martha was not bad, just misguided even in the presence of Jesus, Mary was the better way, and Jesus said that it would not be taken from her.

In working, Martha’s fruits ripen very quickly, in worshipping Mary’s take time.

While she was sitting at Christ’s feet, she was forming and filling. It is not popular in today’s style of preaching but we need to know even in these times you are not losing time while you are feeding the soul.

When you spend time in his presence, then when the season for work comes you will work with a power and a result which empty people can never attain, however busy they may be.

Mary was filling up, she was listening and learning, feeding, edifying, loving, and growing strong. The engine of her soul was getting ready, and study your Bible, when all was right her action was prompt and forcible. 

If you study this morning’s gospel reading, the story of these sisters will teach you something on how to survive some things and some people.

Point 5: WE MAY MEET WITH HINDRANCES IN RELIGION FROM THOSE WHO SHOULD BE OUR ASSISTANTS. A brother may discourage a brother. A sister may reproach and repel a sister. Sometimes even in the church, Our enemies may be those of our own household. Even by religious friends and relations we may sometimes be injured.

The story of Martha the worker and Mary the worshiper (Luke 10:38–42) illustrates an important spiritual principle: We please our Lord most when we learn to sit at His feet in adoration and worship before trying to serve Him in our own strength.

We can become so busy with life’s pursuits, even worthy Christian activities, that we do not hear the still small voice of God.

Or sometimes we pursue God in spiritual spectaculars. But like the story of Elijah on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:11, 12), the Lord does not always reveal Himself in the wind, fire, or earthquake, but sometimes in the stillness of the small voice.

Learning to listen to God’s voice is one of the important factors in our spiritual growth. When we are silent before Him in the enjoyment of His presence and His Word, we gain His wisdom, insights, and the renewal of our strength for daily living. May the people who see and know us say of us even as it was said of the early disciples—“they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

It is all about our choices.

Conclusion: “Mary,” saith our Lord, “hath chosen.” She had made up her mind; she had taken her choice. She had discerned what she loved; she had seen what was for her good; she had great courage, and, caring not for the praise or the blame of others, she determined to hold fast what she had chosen.

She chose “the good part.” Mary had not chosen the riches of this world; she had not chosen the honour, or the rank, or the learning of this world: she had chosen none of those things that the world commonly thinks good. She sat at Jesus’ feet; she heard the words of Jesus; she drank in the instruction that the Lord Jesus Christ is ever ready to give to those who listen.

Because she did this—because she so gave evidence of the state of her heart—the Lord says of her here, “She hath chosen the good part.” That “good part” was the good of her everlasting soul; a knowledge of God, as revealed in the face of Jesus Christ.

The story of Martha and Mary is the lesson of Passion and Patience, Passion must have the best things now; patience waits for his best things, and when he has them keeps them.

The Church should also have precisely the same thing. No Church has any perfect members in it, and too often Church people associate themselves together, the intensely zealous with the intensely zealous, and the extremely intelligent with the extremely intelligent; but we are all of us so imperfect that we need somebody else here and there, “Receive ye one another.”

Worship is at the heart of all that we are and all that we do in the Christian life. It is important that we be busy ambassadors, taking the message of the Gospel to lost souls. It is also essential to be merciful Samaritans, seeking to help exploited and hurting people who need God’s mercy. But before we can represent Christ as we should, or imitate Him in our caring ministry, we must spend time with Him and learn from Him. We must “take time to be holy.”

Mary of Bethany is seen three times in the Gospel record, and on each occasion, she is in the same place: at the feet of Jesus. She sat at His feet and listened to His Word (Luke 10:39), fell at His feet and shared her woe (John 11:32), and came to His feet and poured out her worship (John 12:3).

Mary and Martha are often contrasted as though each believer must make a choice: be a worker like Martha or a worshiper like Mary. Certainly our personalities and gifts are different, but that does not mean that the Christian life is an either/or situation. Charles Welsey said it perfectly in one of his hymns:

Faithful to my Lord’s commands,

I still would choose the better part;

Serve with careful Martha’s hands,

And loving Mary’s heart.

Few things are as damaging to the Christian life as trying to work for Christ without taking time to commune with Christ.

Please learn the lesson. . . Martha did.

According to John 12:1–2, Martha must have learned her lesson, for she prepared a feast for Jesus, the Twelve, and her brother and sister—that’s fifteen people—and did not utter one word of complaint! She had God’s peace in her heart because she had learned to sit at the feet of Jesus.

It seems evident that the Lord wants each of us to imitate Mary in our worship and Martha in our work.

Blessed are the balanced!

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