Mary or Martha

Two sisters who wanted to please Jesus, but in different ways.

I started writing this lesson on listening and learning, and it made me think about school and what I learned. When you were in school, did you learn anything from your teachers? Some kids liked their teachers and others did not. There were some classes that I liked depending on the teacher.  I thought some classes were not interesting enough, important enough or the classes were too hard, and that is probably why I lost my focus. There are a lot of kids that lose focus and most are thinking about what they are going to do when they get home and what friends will be outside. Were you one of those kids who sat in class and doodled on the paper and did fancy drawings, or heard what the teacher was saying, but it went in one ear and out the other? You weren’t concerned with it because you didn’t focus and make it a priority. Maybe you were one of those kids who heard everything, soaked the information up and knew it was important, and learned something because you listened.

We learn by how we are taught. Our teaching can be from our parents or teachers, and we hope that when we apply those teachings, they bring results because of how we listened. Not everyone teaches the same way, and our paths can lead to different directions. What I mean by that is, what you are learning may lead to a different result depending on how you focused your attention. You must listen and focus on what is taught and know that it can bring results. Did you learn anything from your teachers? Whether it was a teacher from your past or a professor your learning from now, how you respond depends on how you listened. By learning and practicing, we can take that next step into showing others what we learned. Jesus not only taught but valued his teachings. The teachings we receive from Jesus always brings results.

Is it important to apply what we are taught by Jesus, of course it is! His teachings have purpose and gives our life direction. We must read the Word of God and focus on Him, but to do that, we must prioritize our life and put Him first. We can do that by reading the Bible, praying and spending quiet time with Him. His teachings are just as important today as they were when he taught His disciples.  Jesus not only wants us to listen, but to value His teachings. We may not always listen or hear because of the noise around us, but a good listener should focus and be attentive to the person they are listening to. There will be times when we stumble and that’s okay, because we know as Christians, we have the Holy Spirit to convict us. But we must also know that we must not become so busy and wanting to serve God that we forget to listen to God. Every Christian can listen to the Word by reading the Bible, focusing and applying the teachings that Jesus taught, and His teachings will bring results.

Every Christian can listen and serve Jesus but if we do not prioritize our life and put Him first, those distractions will get in the way of knowing Him. We listen because we need to know Scripture and understand what brings results. The word result means there will be an action that occurs, and that action will have an outcome due to something. The action or outcome resulted in something that Mary and Martha did or did not do because of how they listened to Jesus. Let’s learn these results that are shown by His teachings.

  • Results occur by prioritizing

Mary and Martha are two sisters that seem to be completely opposite. I don’t know if any of you have a sister, but I do, and she and I are different in many ways. When I think about Mary and Martha, they also seem to be different. In reading Luke 10:38-42, Martha seems like a very busy person, and her sister Mary is quiet and more laid back. In verse 38, Martha opens her house for Jesus, and I guess she was doing what was expected of her. Martha, being the busy person, was preparing the meal in the kitchen and getting everything done because she wanted to serve Jesus. I wondered if she knew she was going to be in the kitchen by herself. Martha’s priorities were much different than Mary’s. Then you have Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and wanted to listen to Him. Mary was not worried about Martha and what she was doing in the kitchen, she wanted to focus her attention on Jesus because she knew that was more important, and being a disciple, she valued His teachings. Her priorities were different than her sisters.

  • Results occur by responding

All this time while Mary was at Jesus’ feet and quietly listening and focusing, Martha was doing all the work. She was preparing the food and making sure everything was getting done so there would be enough for everyone. Martha was getting upset with Mary and blaming her because she was not receiving help from her. I imagine Martha banging pots and pans trying to get her sisters attention. If it was me, I would be yelling at my sister. Maybe Martha did not value Jesus’ teachings as much as Mary did. Martha was getting so upset, and instead of saying something to Mary and telling her how she feels, she says something to Jesus. In verse 40 she says, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Now I don’t know if you have read that Scripture, but in the end, there is an explanation mark. Martha’s tone sounds very demanding and frustrated, and I don’t think I would have acted that way if I was in that situation.  She might have thought that by saying something to Jesus, He would fix it right away. In verse 41 Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Jesus may be trying to tell Martha to stop focusing on yourself, but to listen to what is important. Do not worry about serving me, because I came to serve, not to be served. So apparently Jesus did not fix the situation as Martha hoped for. We tend to forget what is important because we are so caught up with our daily life. What is important will not be taken away because of what is learned and the response that comes from it. Mary responded to Jesus by listening and obeying.

  • Results occur by practicing

Mary was the content listener and was not distracted by other things or worries. Did she know that Martha would be so upset with her for not helping in the kitchen? Maybe, maybe not, but she did know that obeying and listening to Jesus was more important than anything else. Martha could have stopped what she was doing and followed what Mary had already done, which was listening and to worship Jesus. Martha wanted to serve, not listen. Did Mary value His teachings more than Martha? Mary wanted to be with Jesus, and she chose to do that. Jesus said it would not be taken from her. The teachings that Mary learned from Jesus will bring results by listening and not always worrying. Let us quiet ourselves and focus our attention. We must practice and start a routine in listening to Jesus.

Listening to Jesus’ teachings can and will bring results. Those results are due to how we respond, and we need to understand as Christians what God is calling us to do. Mary wanted to be silent and listen, while Martha wanted to serve. Let us worship, pray and find that time to be silent and listen to the Lord. Mary did, while sitting at His feet, being a content listener, responding and making Jesus a priority.

We can apply this information by prioritizing and putting God first. Responding and listening to His Word, obey and practice in committing to Jesus and His teachings. Let us not be distracted but make time for Jesus and know that what we learn from Him will always bring results. Mary and Martha were both correct in wanting to please Jesus. One wanted to serve and one wanted to listen. Jesus came to serve and that is what Martha did, but it is important to listen and that is what Mary did.


            Lord, we know that we can get distracted by our own life and we do not always make time for you. I pray that our focus is more on you and your teachings, not of our daily life. Let us wake every day with the knowledge of your teachings, and to know that the path to you will bring results. In Jesus’ name, Amen

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