Thursday, August 19, 2010

Being a Martha before you can be like Mary

As Christian women, we are called to have the attitude of Mary, Martha and Lazarus' sister.  Mary sat at the Saviors feet while Martha ran around and cleaned, cooked, served and fussed.  Martha was more than a little irritated!  She was doing all of the work while Mary sat and listened to Jesus.  Mary looked into Jesus' eyes and soaked in His very essence, all the while, Martha ran around busily working.

The girls and I were preparing for company the other day and as I was vacuuming, sweeping, setting tables and trying to do as much work ahead of time as possible, I was pondering the realities of the effort it takes to be hospitable.  As I was thinking on these things, I realized that in order to be Mary, whose attention was focused only on her guest, I must first be Martha.  I must prepare, clean, cook, arrange, all in preparation for and in expectation of guests.

Somehow, I think that we are called to be both Mary and Martha.  One of the things that Martha was chastised for was worrying and fretting over temporal things, things that already should have been taken care of - things, that when Jesus is in your home are no longer of any consequence.  Martha had not taken care to prepare her home ahead of time for guests, she waited until they were on her doorstep.  Rather than simply being able to welcome Jesus and his disciples into her home she had to hustle to provide for their needs.  Instead of encouraging a welcoming atmosphere of hospitality, she fostered an atmosphere of hostility.  She hadn't taken care of things ahead of time, so she was irritated with her sister for not helping her take care of things now.  By the time Jesus is on our doorstep, it is too late to worry about getting things ready - that should have been done before time.  When Jesus comes calling, our place is at his feet.  We are to be Martha before He comes and Mary after He arrives.

How does that relate to having guests?  By preparing for our guests before they arrive, we are able to "sit at their feet" when they cross our threshold.  If we have cooked, cleaned and attended to little details before we have company we are able to visit and enjoy them when they are here.  We won't be getting up every five minutes to peel potatoes and check on the roast if that has already been done.  We won't have to run into the bathroom ahead of someone to make sure that there is fresh toilet paper and that the dirty laundry is indeed inside the clothes hamper.  All of those details will have already been taken care of.

It is not just expected company that we can prepare for.  If we have an attitude of preparedness in our daily chores, we will always be ready to welcome visitors into our homes.  If we have cookies in the cookie jar, all we need to do is whip up a pot of tea and presto - immediate hospitality.  If we have menus planned and have all of the ingredients necessary to prepare our planned meals, we are ready to minister to our husbands with warm, delicious meals when they get home from a taxing day at work.  We can be Mary to our husbands and sit at their feet, because we have first been Martha and done the necessary work.

I am Martha, but I am learning to be Mary.  I am learning to organize my days so that my home is ordered and well run.  I am learning to make sure I always have a tidy home and a little something to serve whomever may grace my threshold.  I am learning that by first being Martha, I can more easily be Mary.


  1. Save the Canning JarsAugust 19, 2010 at 8:28 PM


  2. Oh golly, I'm more like Maxine.

    NoCal Gal

  3. Great insight. Our priest tied this Gospel reading together with the parable of the servants waiting for their master to return from the wedding.

    It's amazing how much more peaceful life becomes when you have a good routine for your household.

  4. I'm not there yet, but I have had the exact same thoughts about being prepared to extend hospitality. Thank you for the inspiration. Jennifer

  5. I had always wondered why people dump on Martha, and now I see. Thanks, T.

    Bill Smith

  6. Sure do agree with you...

    ...but, you know, I always seem to have days where, no matter how hard I work, the house just isn't ready for company. Thankfully I don't get much company, but-- there are always those days when the kids threw their toys around while I was fixing the plumbing or building a pantry shelf, or those days when we decided that just for today it was more important to cuddle on the couch and read. For an hour. And a half.

    I have a dear friend who is a compulsive hoarder (not a prepper-- a hoarder-- believe me there's a difference) as well as a terrible housekeeper and a lousy cook. The food is dumped out of a box or nonexistent, we sometimes spend the first half-hour of my visit talking things over while we make sure there's nothing around that the kids can hurt themselves with, and the house is NEVER a pleasant- or restful-looking place. NEVER.

    Yet, somehow, I almost always leave her house feeling rested and refreshed. Why?? Because we spend those visits-- they happen only four or so times a year-- focusing on the kids and on each others' needs.

    I've often wondered if the story isn't about receiving guests graciously-- after all, they're there to see YOU, not your housekeeping-- regardless of the circumstances in your domicile when they come calling.