Defending Martha

God established peace for us, for all we have done, He has already accomplished. – Isaiah 26:1

I remember reading the story of Mary and Martha as a young child. There was a day when Yeshua came with His disciples to their home in the village of Bethany. Sitting in the main room of their humble house, he was teaching all who were gathered there. As time wore on everyone sat around Yeshua’s feet, drinking in the wisdom He was sharing with them. Everyone, that is, apart from Martha.

I imagine Martha sat there for a while, listening to the beautiful life-giving things Yeshua was saying, but then with a sense of urgency she rose and departed, her mind busy with thoughts of what needed to be done. Her sister Mary, on the other hand, sat at Yeshua’s feet listening with her whole being, unmindful of the work that was going on in the other room.

Martha, you see, was quick to realize the practical reality of the situation. The Bible tells us that she was the one who had invited Yeshua into their home. Martha knew people needed food, and at some point, when Yeshua’s incredible teaching would end there would be the basic human need for sustenance. Thinking strategically ahead, Martha must have mapped out in her mind an inventory of what she had in the kitchen, and once there, she likely inspected the situation and ma a plan.
Nowadays, good home-made food requires a lot preparation; in Bible times, much more so. So, Martha, having figured out the need in advance, took action to resolve the problem ahead of its impact.

Now having spent all her energy preparing the meal, Martha comes back and takes issue with her sister’s indifference to the situation. She had expected that at some point, Mary would have noticed she was not in the room and assumed that Mary would come to the realization that Martha must be working and that she, Mary, needed to come and help. But Mary didn’t do that. After working in the kitchen, missing out on the precious time with Yeshua in order to take care of what needed to be done, Martha decides to let Mary know her apparent “ignorance” was not helpful, it was even irresponsible. In fact, she says, “it’s not fair that you Mary should get to do nothing, while I do all the work”.

At that very moment Yeshua turns around and rebukes Martha, strongly. Yeshua tells Martha that all these things she thinks are essential, are in fact not needed and that Mary chose the better part by sitting at His feet and listening to him.

Even as a child I could feel Martha’s indignation at this statement. I could imagine her cheeks going bright red with embarrassment at being “told off” by the Master, in front of everyone.

For the life of me, I couldn’t understand what was wrong with Martha’s choice. Martha saw ahead, and realizing the need she took action. Someone had to do the work! Martha made sure that what had to be done, got done and yet apparently she was incorrect. I was upset on her behalf, that she had to endure such a public reprimand for choosing to accomplish the needs of hospitality instead of sitting down.

In fact, to be perfectly honest, I spent years of my life disliking those “super spiritual” people who just passively go through life saying “God will provide”, and spending hours of their time in “Spiritualville”. Even worse, have you met the kind that never plans, nor once properly manages whatever they are doing and yet, miraculously, everything somehow falls into place for them?

They are always so happy. I want to say: “Yeah, you know why it all works out in the end? It’s because people like me see what needs to be done to save the situation, swing into gear and get it done!”.

Now if you are one of those blissful people, I apologize. But if you’re getting frustrated right now, and feeling Martha’s pain, I’m with you. It took me years to accept the reason Yeshua acted the way He did with Martha.

As Yeshua walks the earth, before His ultimate act of defeating sin and death on our behalf forever, He spends His time teaching people. He teaches them about the kingdom of God and what a true believer’s life looks like. In Matthew chapter 25, He tells them a parable about ten virgins. Note that all ten virgins are waiting for the bridegroom in the story. This parable is not about becoming a believer because the ten virgins symbolize those who do believe, or at least think they do. However, only five of these virgins will be found to be true believers and enter the marriage supper of the Lamb.

The rest will be shut out for eternity.

The five who are found faithful are those who had spent their time and resources wisely, so that they had oil (the Holy Spirit) to keep their lamps lit during the long wait for the bridegroom. Their actions were steered by true Godly wisdom, not human or worldly wisdom. It wasn’t about what they said, it was about the choices they made during the time of preparation that resulted in the favorable outcome – entering into the kingdom of heaven.

Yeshua said that Mary chose the better part. Has it occurred to you that Martha not only missed out on spending precious time listening to Yeshua’s life-giving teaching, but she also might have missed out on an awesome miracle? Yeshua had no problem multiplying food; we read of several occasions when He did just that. How incredible it would have been for Martha, if at the end of listening to Yeshua, she had brought him whatever she had on a humble tray and said “Lord this is what I have, may it be a blessing to feed Your people” and Yeshua taking the food and blessing it would have told her “Martha, now pass it out to all who are hungry”.

How Martha would have marveled, watching the food on that tray re-appear and multiply. I’m sure she would have never forgotten that moment, and would have thought about it perhaps even daily, or whenever she felt the need to worry about provision or supplies. A greater assurance of the supernatural caring power of the God she served, would have entered her life.

I’m sure the five foolish virgins thought they were doing the right thing. After all, they were waiting for the bridegroom to come. They had their lamps in hand, and initially they did have oil to keep them alight. It turns out however, that what we do while we are waiting for the Lord to return, is crucial to our eternal outcome. In this life it’s so easy to get busy, distracted, focused on ‘the doing’ of many good things, but if we do not adopt a position of spending time with the Lord above all else, receiving wisdom, revelation and the infilling of the Holy Spirit, we may be on the path to losing out on our real destiny.

I actually find it comforting to stop, sit, and listen to the Lord; to surrender everything to His rulership. All of our God-given dreams, the provision for them, the accomplishments we were made for, all these come from listening to God. You cannot compare earthly wisdom and strategy to the inspiration of Your Creator. I find security, and that His peace in me passes understanding, when my life is absolutely aligned with the will of God. I find true joy in the life of His spirit within me and in the people around me.

I want to encourage you today to take stock of your life, to make an honest assessment of how the way you spend your time reflects your priorities and make a commitment before the Lord to be like Mary. A commitment to spend time with the Lord, seeking His kingdom, whenever you have that precious opportunity and also to make time for it purposefully. If we resolutely seek to listen to the voice of the Lord, the Bible shows us that miracles will follow.


“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and ALL these things will be added to you.”
(Matthew 6:33).

This article originally appeared on Sarah Liberman’s blog, August 14, 2018, and reposted with permission.

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Sarah Liberman is an internationally acclaimed Israeli worship leader, speaker and recording artist. Sarah has devoted her life to blessing the heart of God and making a place for others to meet with Him. Sarah travels, singing and speaking, bringing the powerful new sound of this generation of Israeli worshippers to the nations. With millions of views on YouTube, and songs sung in congregations around the world, her music brings you into the real presence of God. Her first two albums “I Am Before You” and “A Pure Heart” include well known and loved songs such as ‘Fire of Your Spirit’ and ‘Gadol Adonai’.