Surely you have heard it said of siblings who have very different personalities, “How can they be from the same family?” Apparently the sisters of Lazarus – Martha and Mary of the village of Bethany – would have had such comments made about them.
I have heard it said that there are essentially two types of people in the word: paper people, and people people. Paper people are those who are oriented toward organization, detail, and doing things properly and in order. People people are about relationships and just hanging out with other folks. Martha was apparently a paper people, while Mary was a people people.
Those of you who are reading this and are nearby the church and conversant with our current activities know that this past weekend saw us have to call off an evening fellowship activity with our new fellowship of mostly African-American churches, due to the weather. I was really, really bummed about this – was so highly looking forward to everyone meeting my new friends and building upon this unique, new relationship. That was the Mary side of me.
The Martha side was really worried about food preparations and other details to make the event a success. I don’t actually like doing those sorts of plans, and I hate asking anyone to do much of anything. The food and drink elements of our church fellowships always seem to work out, though the mega-Martha types would say that is because they are there to make sure the merry Marys – like me – don’t forget the most obvious details.
We need both types of people in the world and especially in the church community. Thank God for Martha types who get the work done that needs to be done sooner or later. And the Mary types are indispensable in so many ways for interpersonal connections both within the church family and to the outside world.
The bottom line however is that the highest priority is to value the word of God so highly that it is the top priority in life. The food and hospitality can wait. Gatherings around the things of God with the people of God is about spiritual connection, growth and enrichment. It is not primarily about eating and the things of the material world. There is a time for these details to eventuate, but nothing is more important than growing spiritually.
Luke 10:38 – As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”