Martha, undoubtedly the oldest of two sisters, operated with a firstborn personality. Luke 10:38 tells us she had the gift of hospitality and desire to serve, however, she was definitely out of balance. A-type personalities have wonderful qualities but they can be impatient, controlling, and demanding. Martha became agitated with her sister Mary who simply wasn’t helping and boldly told Jesus, her friend, what to do about it; “tell her to help me!” Martha was driven to serve and interpreted Jesus’ disregard for her as uncaring. People who have driven personalities can fall into victim mode, blaming, and stressing out.
Luke used the word distracted in verse 30 which tells us that her mind was going in several directions; she was over-occupied and too busy to concentrate on her guest, Jesus. She allowed her driven personality to drive her away from Jesus instead of toward him.
There are two words that Jesus used to describe His friend Martha: anxious and troubled. The Greek word for anxious means to be pulled in opposite directions or divided. She was drawn to Jesus but the pull toward serving overpowered her desire to relax, sit at His feet, and just listen. Jesus said listening was the most important thing, so my question is, how many of us have responded the same way? We’re too busy to relax, sit in His presence, and commune with Him; we’re pulled in too many directions.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?
Luke 12:22-23, 25-26 ESV
The second Greek word Jesus used to describe Martha was troubled. This shows us that she was close to a breakdown, her mind was disordered and disturbed. Martha was ready to have a panic attack if she didn’t quiet the noise in her mind.
Martha’s name is derived from the Hebrew word mara which can be bitterness or strength. The oil myrrh (also from mara), is strong in fragrance; Esther bathed in it for six months and Solomon mentioned it many times as a bridal scent in his book, Song of Songs.
Can Martha turn her driven personality into a strength, operate in her gifts and yet be content? Jesus said there was only one way: spend time at His feet and listen to His teaching. That’s the best part.
… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 ESV