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A Letter to All the Marthas

A woman pausing in her living room while holding a basket of towels.  She puts her hand over her face as she contemplates her relationship with Jesus.

by Ellen Hopkins

There once was a woman named Martha. 

She was hard-working. 

She was the kind of woman who’d be in charge of a team and work right alongside everyone. 

She knew what needed to get done, and she went after it.

If she had lived in our time, she might have been the one with the Pinterest-worthy home, the one always hosting the Christmas party and in charge of something at every church function.

If You’re Like Martha

If you’re like Martha, you do a lot for the Lord, and you enjoy what you do.

Using your God-given gifts for His Kingdom is fulfilling in the best sense. 

I can relate to Martha, too. 

My schedule is usually packed, and my mind is keeping track of a dozen projects, wishing I had the capacity to add a dozen more. 

I love doing the Lord’s work and using my talents to bring value to His Kingdom here on Earth. 

There is nothing wrong with being a doer. 

James 1:22, 27 HCSB says, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves…Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

God has created us with specific gifts and set us into this world with a job to do. 

His Word tells us to love others, care for our families, share the gospel, continue in community with believers, share our possessions with the poor, and support the work of the Lord with our time, talents, and treasures. 

The list could go on and on.

It’s good to do things for God, as long as we also remember to simply be present with Him.

It’s good to do things for God, as long as we also remember to simply be present with Him. Click to Tweet
A woman carrying a laundry basket full of folded towels.  This woman is working in her home much like Martha of the Bible.

Martha’s Misplaced Perspective

Let’s check back in with Martha. We read her story in Luke 10. 

Jesus was traveling with His disciples and accepted an invitation to Martha’s home. 

There, Martha was hard at work, preparing a worthy dinner, while her sister, Mary, sat with the other guests and listened to Jesus. 

That made Martha upset. 

If you’re a doer like me, you may empathize with Martha and her frustration with Mary’s lack of help. 

When you host a party, you want everything to look just right, smell beautiful, and create the perfect experience for your guests. 

It takes time and effort! 

And you may rightfully expect the members of your household to help.

But the Bible gives us a reality check. 

It says Martha was distracted by her many tasks (verse 40). 

She had lost perspective. 

Instead of enjoying Jesus’ company in her home, she was busy doing things for Him. 

We also can get so busy doing good things for God that we forget the best thing: Spending time with Him!

We can get so busy doing good things for God that we forget the best thing: Spending time with Him! Click to Tweet
A young woman sitting at a table with her head resting on her hands contemplating if she has a Martha personality.

If You Have a Martha Personality

For years, I felt scolded by this story – rejected even. 

Here is Martha, doing her best and working so hard, but it’s her sister who gets the praise. 

It seemed to me that we have two sisters with opposite personality types. 

Martha is a Type A; she likes to work and be organized. 

Mary is a Type B; she lives much more relaxed. 

So if you, like me, have a Type A personality, it may seem like God is telling you you have the wrong personality type, and that He is displeased with your very make-up.

I felt like that for a long time. 

But I don’t feel that way anymore, and here is why:

1. Jesus loved Martha.

“Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus.” – John 11:5 HCSB

A while back, I became so concerned by the fact that Jesus may have been displeased with Martha’s personality that I did a word search on her name. 

This technique is helpful when you want to get a better picture of what the whole Bible says about a topic or person rather than relying on just one passage. 

When I came to the above verse, I just stared at it.

And then I cried a little. 

This verse is tucked into the introduction to a different story… the one where Lazarus gets sick and dies, but Jesus shows up later and raises him from the dead. 

In this story, Martha meets Jesus outside when He finally arrives. 

She questions His inaction and declares her faith in His ability. 

Boy, can I relate to Martha once again!

Jesus, seeing Martha’s faith and distress, begins to reassure her that her brother will live again.

It struck me that Jesus hadn’t written Martha off. 

He saw her faith and hard work as well as her weaknesses. 

And he loved Martha just as much as Mary. I began to view Jesus’ words through a lens of love. 

Jesus didn’t write Martha off, and He doesn’t write you off either. Click to Tweet
Woman standing in a window soaking in the sunlight and reflecting upon her relationship with Jesus and if she is spending enough time with him.  If she is soaking in her time with him.

2. Jesus saw Martha.

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.” – Luke 10:41 HCSB

Jesus saw how Martha really felt: worried—about all the wrong things. 

It’s so easy to make our hard work about the wrong things, isn’t it?

Focusing on appearances, self-fulfillment, or pride.

But remember that lens of love? 

Instead of reading Jesus’ words with a scolding tone of voice – even one that you may feel you deserve – read them with one of concern and reassurance. 

Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice” (Lk 10: 41-42 HCSB).

Jesus is driven by love, always! 

Don’t forget He created you with your personality and surely isn’t punishing you for it. 

Rather, Jesus sees your distracted heart, and He is lovingly directing you back to Him.

Jesus sees your distracted heart, and He is lovingly directing you back to Him. Click to Tweet

3. Jesus invited Martha.

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28 HCSB

When we read Jesus’ words through a lens of love rather than displeasure, we see that He extends an invitation: Come and sit!

Jesus extends the same invitation to you. 

Put your to-do list aside and sit with Him!

Working hard is admirable and comes with many rewards. 

Productivity means you get a lot done. 

You may reap praise, money, or even the pleasure of seeing people grow in their faith because of the work you do.

Yet working hard can also be exhausting.

Exhaustion can bring out the worst in us. 

It can make us snap at our husbands and kids. 

It can make us resent the people for whom we work so hard.

When you feel yourself giving in to these not-so-godly impulses, it’s time to pause and remember Jesus’ invitation.

Slow down and be with Him!

Spend time in prayer and the reading of Scripture. 

Just sit in silence, close your eyes, and be aware that He is with you right there. 

You can learn to pause from productivity and accept Jesus' invitation. Click to Tweet
Woman folding a towel in a large living room.  Contemplating if she is more of a Mary or a Martha personality like that of the Bible.

A Final Word for a Martha Personality

Beware, doer: Don’t turn this time into another thing to check off your to-do list. 

This is about consciously being in the presence of Jesus, about listening, about pursuing a relationship with Him. 

God loves the things you do for Him, but He misses your company. 

My guess is you miss His company, too. 

So, what are you waiting for?

Turn off your electronics for a moment. 

Ignore the laundry. 

Sit at the feet of Jesus!

He’ll let you get back to your trusty to-do list in a bit. 

Promise!

– Ellen Hopkins

Ellen Hopkins is the founder of Scripture Confident Living. She holds a B.A. in Communications from the Moody Bible Institute and an M.A. in Counseling Ministries from Wheaton College Graduate School. Together with her husband, she serves on staff at a non-denominational church in Florida. They have two kids. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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