In just five verses, The Bible shares the story of Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha. In it, there are 3 life lessons that everyone can benefit from knowing.
The primary lesson the story teaches us is to Focus On What Really Matters. Additionally, the story shows us that Things That Seem Unfair, Might Be Fair, and to Respond Calmly To People Who Are Angry.
Before we dive into the lessons, let’s look at the story of Mary and Martha with Jesus. The story is found in Luke 10:38-42.
Jesus Visits Martha and Mary
38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.
39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.
40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”Luke 10:38-42 (NLT)
Focus On What Really Matters
One time while I was reading the Old Testament, I found it amazing how most people’s lives were documented in just a few paragraphs or less. Reading a few chapters meant going through hundreds of years of history. That experience reminded me that only a few things will be remembered about us when we die. Those things will likely be the things we’ve focused on during our lives. In the story of Jesus’ visit to Martha and Mary, there is a similar lesson; focus on what really matters.
It’s interesting that the story says that “Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing” (Luke 28:40 NLT). Surely eating is important, but in this story, the bible says she was distracted. Martha was missing the most important part of having Jesus as a guest. The part that Mary discovered; “listening to what he taught” (Luke 10:39 NLT).
This shows that we can miss the most important things in life by doing things that support life. Most of our lives are consumed by work in order to pay for food, clothing, and shelter, but as Jesus rhetorically asked. “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25 NIV).
I don’t know what Jesus was teaching at Martha and Mary’s house, but it’s likely that Mary got it and Martha missed it. A week, month, or even years later it would have not been the dinner that was remembered, but instead what he was teaching. Centuries later, here we are discussing lessons from that event, the parts that mattered enough to document in The Bible!
Focus on the things that really matter in life. Things like finding and living up to your potential, the Kingdom of God, and earning rewards that will last forever.
Things That Seem Unfair, Might Be Fair
Isn’t it interesting how upset we get when we feel as if we were treated unfairly? This is how Martha felt when she was doing all the housework while Mary was listening to Jesus. Expecting that Jesus would recognize this, Martha approached him saying “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work?” (Luke 10:40 NLT). But to her surprise, Jesus takes Mary’s side, telling her that “there is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it…” (Luke 10:42 NLT).
So here you have a situation where something that seems unfair is viewed differently by God. This leads us to an important question. What else in life do we think is unfair, that isn’t? We must consider this question because as we see with Martha, thinking we are being treated unfairly causes us to be upset with others, wishing that God would do something about the situation. If we are ignorant of how God sees the situation, we will be resentful to others and possibly God when our prayers are not answered in the way we expect.
This story isn’t the only place that presents a situation that seems unfair to us but isn’t to God. In the parable of the talents, it may seem unfair that some got more talents to start with than others or that the servant who only had one, but did not do anything with it, lost it to the one who had more as requested by the master. Similar seemingly unfair events occur in the parable of the hired servants and prodigal son.
The takeaway from this point is that things that seem unfair might be fair. We shouldn’t look at things on the surface and conclude that we are being treated unfairly. At times we may be in the wrong, and if we continue to think we are justified we will be resentful and angry in vain. Here are some life scenarios that seem unfair, but may not:
- You found out that someone on the job is being paid more than you and they’re doing similar work. Is it unfair or is it that the person has a qualification or experience that you don’t know of?
- Someone you consider yourself to be on the same level as is more blessed or successful in life. Is it possible that they are giving more, investing more, or working in ways that you don’t see?
- In ministry, like Martha, you are doing a lot of work and feel that others aren’t doing enough. Are the things you’re doing necessary? Are the people that don’t seem to be doing anything, serving God in ways you don’t see?
Respond Calmly To People Who Are Angry
The last life lesson we can learn from the story of Jesus’ visit to Martha and Mary is easy to miss. It is a lesson I finally learned after many failures. That lesson is Respond Calmly To People Who Are Angry. Whether it was my boss, sibling, or wife, at times when they approached me upset about something I did or didn’t do, I would respond to them in a similar tone. The result? It made them angrier!
Eventually, I learned that it was not necessarily me that was the problem, but likely something else. And when upset about something, people desire to open up their hearts to someone in order to feel better about the situation. Since I started responding gently and listening, my relationships were transformed for the better.
When Martha approached Jesus upset, he responded by saying “My dear Martha” (NLT). In the NIV translation, it says he said “Martha, Martha”. Both phrases indicate that Jesus responded to Martha calmly.
A verse in the book of proverbs states this lesson plainly. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV). Apply this piece of wisdom the next time someone approaches you venting. When you do, you will realize, like I have, how the way you respond can make a person feel better or get angrier.
There you have it, three life lessons from the story of Jesus’ Visit to Martha and Mary. I hope they help you to focus on what really matters, reexamine situations in your life that seem unfair, and have better relationships.