Luke 10:41-42, But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
There are Martha-souls and Mary-souls. Martha in this pericope is always harshly criticised, but let’s not forget that she was a believer. Martha was anxious about how she ought to honour her Saviour and make things pleasant for Him. Martha-souls are filled with zeal for the Lord. They are people eager to serve and they are practical—they know how to get things done. We need Martha-souls. Yet the danger of Martha-souls is that they are so distracted with their zeal to honour and please Jesus that they neglect spending quiet hours with Him.
Jesus’ commendation for Mary’s quietude shows that now was not the time to be active and do things. Jesus came to Martha’s home to teach (vv. 38-39). The only thing He needed was for both of them to sit and listen, and no doubt engage in conversation with questions and curiosity. Mary’s quietude is commended because it was the proper response to Jesus’ purpose; running around with anxiety on how to serve the Lord was not the proper response.
Yet Mary, too, knew how to serve. A few weeks later Mary would act to serve Jesus by anointing His feet with her hair (John 12:1-8). It’s not that Mary-souls don’t know how to serve the Lord or refrain from being busy with serving the Lord; Mary-souls simply know how to discern when it’s time to be quiet before Him and when it’s time to be busy with service to Him. When there’s a natural disaster, you can either be anxious about how best to help the victims, or you can take time to sit before the Lord in prayer and set the practicalities aside for later.
We need both Martha-souls and Mary-souls. If you’re a Martha-soul, it’s fine that you have much zeal for the Lord and are eager to serve others, but do not forget to set aside time to pray and to hear from Jesus by reading the Word and listening to your pastor’s preaching. Mary-souls, do not forget that you must also act; do not be content with being merely quiet. There is piety in quietude, but you, too, are also called to service to the Lord. Martha-souls and Mary-souls need each other, then. Some of us need a reminder to be quiet before the Lord and learn from Him and His Word, and others of us need a reminder to be active in service.