Have you ever taken one of those personality tests? There are a million out there, but you know the ones I’m talking about. Depending on the test, you answer anywhere from a few questions to a survey a mile long. The results come back giving you a sense of insight into your individuality. These tests are supposed to tell you about your strengths and weaknesses, and potentially how to better evaluate your place in the world.
Recently, I was sitting with a group of ladies talking about those personality tests. Somewhere in the conversation, someone brought up a specific social-media based test that tells you which biblical personality you most closely resemble. The whole premise of the test is pretty amusing, but it made for a great conversation piece. Somewhere in the jumble of female voices, a woman across from me said with her head lowered, “Well, I’m just a Martha. I always wanted to be a Mary, but that’s just not me.”
I watched this woman and sat there thinking about what she was saying. “I’m just a Martha.” Her tone was so defeated as she thought about how she would never measure up to the perceived “Marys” all around her. You could practically hear the mental monologue in her mind as she compared herself to every other woman in the circle. Haven’t we all been there, sitting in a room of women who seem to have it all together? We’re just proud we walked in the door with clean clothes and a shower after a chaotic day.
I thought about this sweet lady’s words the next day, and went to read the narratives of Mary and Martha in the Bible. In Luke, we read about when Jesus visited the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. This is the story where some of Martha’s greatest flaws are on display:
“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 few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:38-42, NIV).
That visit wasn’t exactly Martha’s shining moment. Then I went to look at the other passage of scripture that highlights this family. I turned to John 11, and the verse my eyes fell on was this, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5, NIV).
Jesus loved Martha.
I think he loved her diligent nature and her enthusiasm for opening her home to anyone who needed a place to go. I think he appreciated her servant heart and desire to make certain everyone’s needs were met. I think he delighted in the attributes that displayed how she was “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I think she made Jesus smile.
Jesus loved Martha.
Many times when we’re reading the Bible, we’re quick to make assumptions, and if we’re not careful we can fill in the dots with a context that isn’t necessarily accurate.
Tell me I’m not alone in this? If you were making a movie about the story of Mary and Martha, and you were the casting agent, who would seek out? Well, if we’re being honest, in my mental assumptions, I might cast Mary as a Miss America type beauty – sweet, docile, always smiling with a lovely set of bright, white teeth, an exemplary metabolism, and hair that’s salon perfect. Anybody tracking with me here?
Now let’s move on to Martha. Who would you cast? I’d say something quite opposite of our fair Mary – loud, bossy, not a particularly cheerful disposition, working on her mid-section, and frizzy hair (can I get an amen). I don’t know about you, but in my current stage of life with a 3 and 5-year-old, I don’t have a lot in common with Miss America Mary.
So based on the descriptions above, is there any biblical truth to those casting decisions? I can’t find any. Here’s what we do know about Mary: Jesus praised her, not for the personality she possessed, but for the choices she made. Martha chose distraction, busyness, and worry. Mary chose to listen, focus, and build a relationship at the feet of Jesus.
Jesus does not praise Mary for her temperament, her beauty, her social grace or her outward perfection – he praised her for her choice. She chose to spend time at Jesus’ feet.
I don’t think Jesus told us the story of Mary and Martha because some of us are “Marys” (i.e. good thing), and some are “Marthas” (i.e. bad thing). I don’t think a study of these two women is an in-depth look at personality types, but rather a look at choice. Mary was not the better woman. Jesus did not love Martha less. Instead, the story is about the priorities of our heart.
Thinking back to the statement mentioned earlier of “I’m just a Martha,” aren’t we all sometimes? Each one of us is guilty of choosing poorly when it comes to focusing our time with Christ. We are all prone to letting the cares of this world crowd out the treasure of developing a deeper relationship with Jesus. But praise God, Jesus loved Martha!
When it comes to choice, we can all be a Mary in a Martha world. We get to choose it. None of our fleshly natures are inclined that way, but the more we turn our eyes off of the world and on to Jesus, all of us can become that way.
We are so prone to comparing ourselves to those around us. But friend, take it from me – a strong-willed, frizzy-haired, carb-loving-yet-vegetable-needing, recovering Martha – God made you specifically and uniquely you. Choose daily to have a Mary focus that’s perfectly packaged in whatever personality God designed just for you.