Serving as Mary, Serving as Martha

The story of Martha and Mary is familiar to most people who have grown up in the church.  I am well versed in it, but this narrative does have a slightly different and deeper meaning now that I am working, more than when I was a child in Sunday school or a high schooler in youth group.


Verse 40 sticks out to me in particular – it says, “But Martha was distracted with much serving.” I find this remarkably interesting because the word “serve” is actually being used in a way that has somewhat of a negative connotation.  Martha’s desire to serve was distracting her from something that was more important.

Additionally, mulling over this sentence highlights the fact that there can be a way to serve that is not of the Lord.  In ministry I have heard the phrase “try to out serve one another” multiple times, and in most contexts it is a worthy goal and good reminder.  However, the posture of one’s heart greatly affects the way one serves and is one of the most crucial aspects.

In my work doing disabled care for the past year, each action that I have done in my job has been a tangible way of serving a living and breathing person right in front of me.  However, I have the choice to serve in one of two ways.  I can serve in a way that wants recognition for my work.  Maybe in a way like Martha, that sacrifices being present and involved in order to get work done, instead of setting my heart on accomplishing both.  If I have a narrow view of my work and operate with tunnel vision solely on the tasks that are to be completed, I will miss so much that the Lord has for me.  How do I serve?  Like Martha?  Then maybe I need a dose of Mary.


Laura Davis works in youth ministry in the Washington, DC area and is a graduate of the 2015-2016 Capital Fellows Program.

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