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The Martha Syndrome and the Mary Solution

An essay donated by Akili Kumasi

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Summary:

God used the story(s) of two well-known women in the Bible, Martha and Mary, to demonstrate the type of relationship He wants with each of us. The two sisters had contrasting approaches to their walk with God -- and thus got difference results. Martha was anxious and un-trusting. Mary got alone with God and worshipped at Jesus' feet.

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Mary and Martha:

God used the story of two well-known women in the Bible to demonstrate to us the type of relationship He wants with each of us.

You might remember that in one story Jesus was visiting the home of the two sisters when Martha came to Him to complain about her sister, Mary.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 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!"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "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." Luke 10:38-42 NIV

When I read this passage of scripture I get the image of a house busy with people engaged in numerous conversations around the house. Martha is running about trying to figure out how everybody is going to get fed and coordinating the logistics of cooking for all the people.

Somewhere in a secluded corner the Lord Jesus Christ is calmly teaching a handful of people who are intently listening to His every word. Mary is sitting at His feet, very content and very settled.

Martha frantically rushes over to interrupt the intimate gathering. Everyone casually looks up at her as the Lord easily sets the record straight. Feeling compassion for Martha, He reassuringly 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." After all, if Jesus could feed the 4,000 (Matthew 15:32-39) and the 5,000 (Matthew 14:14-21), then certainly He could handle supper for a house full of people.

Sometimes we just forget how big our God is and we run around with what I call the "Martha Syndrome" trying to make everything just right when all we need to do is just Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV)

Remember, Jesus told us to seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33 KJV) That's what Mary did. She sought Jesus first. This is what I call the "Mary Solution." But Martha was concerned about What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? (Matthew 6:31 KJV)

In another story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, the two sisters had different reactions to the news that Jesus was coming to see them after their brother Lazarus had died. There are many lessons that Jesus prepared us to see in this whole scenario. Herein we focus on the differences between the two sisters' approaches to Jesus before He brought Lazarus back to life.

17Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
18Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:
19And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
20Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the
house.
21Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
22But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
23Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
24Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
25Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
27She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
28And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.
29As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.
30Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.
31The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there.
32Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
33When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.
34And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
35Jesus wept.
36Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
37And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?
38Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
39Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.
40Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
John 11:17-40 KJV

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Mary Got Alone With God:

In verse 20 we see the first difference between Martha and Mary when they heard that Jesus was coming. Martha took off to go find Jesus. The King James Bible (KJV) says Mary sat still. Others translations say she stayed at home (NIV) or remained sitting in the house (AMP). Mary had a purpose. The Bible does not say she was crying, weeping or anxious. She was waiting on Jesus just as she had done when Jesus visited her home in the earlier example from Luke 10.

We can assume that Mary was preparing her heart through prayer. Whereas Martha was running around -- the same as she had done in Luke 10.

Martha was Impatient and Anxious

In verse 25 and 26 Jesus spoke to Martha but Martha did not really hear Him (v. 21-22). She was focused on what she had to say to Him. Martha talked at Jesus not to Him and after she had her say, she left Him. The consequence was that Martha missed what Jesus was conveying to her. Do we often do the same ourselves?

Jesus must have asked Martha for Mary because when Martha got back to the house she told Mary that The Master is come, and calleth for thee (v. 28).

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Where are We When God Calls?

Mary then went to see Jesus - at the right time. She went when He called her, once He is come (v. 28) or had come. She went without delay. She went when she was properly prepared because she had been praying and waiting. This is also part of the "Mary Solution," sitting and waiting on Jesus, preparing our hearts and responding appropriately when He calls.

As Mary sat still in her house, the Jews who were there might have thought that Mary was focused on death, sorrow, weeping, despair (v. 31). But Mary was focused on Jesus. Had she been focused solely on her brother Lazarus' death, she might have been full of unbelief and would not have been prepared to meet with Jesus.

Mary met Jesus in the same place as Martha (v. 30). She said the same thing as Martha (v. 21 and v. 32), "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." But Mary, unlike Martha, worshipped at His feet (v. 31) and consequently Mary got a different response. The difference was in their preparation and consequently in their approaches as well. Where we are and how we approach God makes a difference.

Both Mary and Martha were believers in the one true God. But, their walk was not the same. Mary was focused on the Savior because she had gotten quite and alone with Him. Mary met Jesus in the same place as she did when Jesus was in her home in Luke 10, at His feet! Therefore, Jesus was moved. He groaned in the spirit and was troubled (v. 33).

On the other hand, Martha had not spent the time in God's presence. Martha, just as in Luke 10 was overcome by her feelings. Her faith was not at a high level.

Our unbelief can block God's miracles in our lives. Even when Jesus was ready to raise Lazarus from the dead, Martha was filled with unbelief. She saw death. She said to Jesus, " ... Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days." This was the equivalent to Martha asking Jesus, "Why would you bother to open his grave. He's dead. He stinks. Why go there, Lord?" Martha was not ready to see the glory of God. She was not ready for God's miracle in her life.

But, again Jesus lovingly corrects the situation just as in Luke 10, when He says, "if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God" (v. 40).

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Seven Points for Seeing God Move in Your Life:

1. Wait on God by conditioning your heart (v20) through
 Prayer and
 Meditation on His Word

2. Wait on God's Call (v28)
 God called Mary
 Unlike Martha who went ahead on her own

3. Wait for God's Timing (v28)
 God decided when Mary should come
 In the meantime she was preparing herself

4. Listen for God's Call (v25-27, 28-29)
 God speaks to us personally

5. Don't delay when God Calls (v29)
 Move immediately
 By being prepared

6. Keep Focus on Him (v31) --
 Not the problem, the situation or your feelings

7. Worship Him at His Feet (v32)

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Are you a Mary Or Are You a Martha ... in your life with God?

Martha Syndrome:
Fret & Worry
Complain
Focus on feelings
Anxious
Unbelief

Mary Solution:
Quiet
Peaceful
Prayerful
At Jesus' feet
Faith

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Author Biography/Resource Box:

Akili Kumasi is the president of GIL Publications (http://www.gilpublications.com), the co-founder WomenInBible.com (http://www.womeninbible.com) and the author of numerous articles and books including 101 Women in the Bible and Bible Word Search, Vol. II: Women in the Bible. Akili can be reached at Kumasi@womeninbible.com. This essay appears at: http://womeninbible.com/

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Originally posted: 2007-MAR-17
Latest update: 2007-MAR-17
Author: Akili Kumasi

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