Last week, I talked about a very familiar passage in the Bible—the story of Jesus going to visit the home of Mary and Martha. Throughout my life, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this passage of Scripture. Because my natural tendency in life is to be like Martha and do, fix, arrange, accomplish, and keep busy, I’ve felt like most sermons on this Scripture have been picking on me.
I’ve thought, “Why didn’t anyone ever see Martha’s side of the story?” In fact, I’ve thought about it so much that in college, I even wrote and performed a monologue from Martha’s perspective.
Think about it: Martha had been working hard all day—-cooking, cleaning, and preparing. She wanted so badly to show Jesus how much she loved Him by making everything just right.
Let’s be honest—we’ve all had times in our lives when we’ve been annoyed and muttered to ourselves about someone who is just sitting around while we do all the work. (What, we aren’t allowed to admit this?)
Like Martha, we’ve all had times when we’ve wanted to see another person corrected while we basked in a little praise for all of our effort.
But that’s not what happened here because even though Martha’s intentions and her motivation were in the right place, her choices were not.
And so, Martha needed a little loving correction.
I get that because, often in my life, I’ve needed the same correction.
Like, Martha, there have been times in my life when I’ve forgotten a very important principle in God’s kingdom: People are more important than projects.
Here’s one of the main differences between Martha’s and Mary’s.
-Martha's show their love through projects.
-Mary's show their love by investing in and spending time with people.
The problem for Martha's is that too often, we become so consumed with the projects that we become annoyed with, start to resent, or even completely ignore the people around us.
This is not God’s will.
The fact is that God loves people.
Human beings are His #1 top priority.
As women who love Him, people need to be our top priority as well.
This begins with the people God has placed closest to us—our families.
One of the choices that I made years ago was that loving my family and being there for them was the most important project in my life.
But how can that be since I’m not married with children?
Well, I still had a family. In my life, this commitment meant being there to help my Mom through her physical disabilities. This didn’t just mean “doing” things she couldn’t do. It meant spending time with her, talking, laughing, listening.
Now, loving my family means being there for Jamie—not just to help with his disability—but to be his friend, his supporter, and his partner in ministry.
It means being there for my Dad even when he is difficult. Helping him when he needs it while giving him space to make his own choices.
While my family probably doesn’t look like yours, the commitment is still the same. God wants us to love the people in our lives. When our lives become so busy—even with ministry or volunteering for God—that we don’t have time for our closest personal human relationships, then our lives are too busy.
Of course, making people our priority extends outside of our families.
It’s a core value that we need to maintain throughout our lives. In whatever circle of people we find ourselves—whether it be in our church, at our job, with our friends, or in our community—people need to be the priority.
Personally, I’ve found that when I start to find people annoying, when I feel like everyone is interrupting my projects, my plans, and my ambitions, that’s when I need a reset.
It means I’m doing too much, my priorities are out of whack, and I need to see what I need to change.
When a phone call from a hurting friend is a hassle or interruption….
When a text asking for prayer is too much trouble…
When I just hate everyone for no reason at all…I need to ask when my inner Martha took over and remind her that I’ve made a choice to be a Mary.
Let’s be honest. It’s easy to fall into this cycle.
Life is busy.
Our society is programmed to move, shake, produce, play, and be busy all the time.
However, what I’ve learned is that this is not God’s will for my life. (Probably not what He wants for you, either.)
God wants us to seek His will and ask what He wants us to do with our time and energy.
Then, He wants us to follow His plan—that’s all.
According to Matthew 11:28, God’s plan for our lives will not overwhelm us and make us so busy with projects that we ignore or treat people badly.
Often, it isn’t even things we enjoy or things that truly need to be done. Instead, we are wearing ourselves out trying to please people, impress people, or prove to ourselves we are good enough. All of these things just exhaust us, wear us down, and leave us feeling more empty inside.
We work, and we work, and we work until we are exhausted and worn out Marthas saying, “Why doesn’t anyone notice me? I’m working so harder, doing more, and killing myself while you’re all just sitting there!”
So what do we do when we’ve reached this point?
Well, here’s what I do:
First, apologize to the people you went all “Martha” over.
Remember, it’s not their fault you’ve overcommitted.
Next, take a breath.
Walk away from the “project” making you crazy. Remember, the “project” is the issue, not the “people.”
Then, spend some time with God, asking Him where you are overcommitted.
Seriously, you need to spend some time with God, asking Him to show you what isn’t necessary in your life. Beware: you may be surprised by the answers. Often, it will be something you view as good or something society tells you is necessary that God sees as unnecessary or unnecessary at this time in your life.
To be completely honest, I’ll admit I’m going through a season of this right now—asking God what to eliminate and reprioritize.
Sensing the Holy Spirit’s conviction that people are more important than projects, I’m asking, “Okay, what projects have to go?”
Here’s something else you can do: Choose to make people a priority.
When you are with people—be with them.
Talk to them. Listen to them. Focus on them.
One of the best ways to do this is to put down your phone and give people your full attention.
It’s another lesson I’m learning and putting into practice in my life: When I limit my phone time, I have more energy and can focus on people more.
Again, it ultimately comes down to choices.
Who do I want to be?
Do I want to be always busy and ignore the people around me, or do I want to follow Jesus’ example and make people a priority?
How we put this into practice will be different for all of us, but it begins with choosing to be women who choose people over projects.
To be Marys instead of Marthas. Wanna work on it with me?
Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
When asked about herself, she'll tell you "I'm a women's minister, a sister, and a daughter. I love to laugh and spend time with people. My favorite things are chocolate, the ocean, sandals and white capris, anything purple, summertime and riding in the car listening to music. It is my absolute honor and privilege to serve Jesus and women through this ministry."