During the Baptist Women In Ministry Mentoring Program Retreat in January, Bianca Robinson Howard, Julie Long, and Dorisanne Cooper shared reflections on Mary and Martha. Their words were powerful for the women at the mentoring retreat, so for the next three weeks, we will gladly share these reflections to the BWIM blog.

“Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”” (Luke 10:38-42, NRSV)

Mary, in this passage, is the ultimate example of what it means to be intimate with Jesus through spending time with Jesus, getting to know Christ better and deeper, and taking the time to stop our busy lives and enjoy the presence of God.

Mary reminds us that “doing ministry” is not spending intimate time with God. Working on a sermon is not your one on one intimate time with the Lord and your self-care time is not serving at the retreat you planned. Our service to God can, at times, become self-serving and unsatisfying if we don’t check our motives behind it.

In verse 40, Martha began to lose her joy in serving Jesus and in verse 41, he told her how troubled she seemed. But Mary was not troubled or frustrated because she was spending her time with the one who could take all those feelings away. We must find time away from everyday ministry tasks to enjoy the Lord. By doing so, we gain strength, self-awareness, peace—and we get to keep the joy in serving God.  Spending intimate time with the Lord gives us time to release burdens and to be reminded that God will fight our daily battles.

Mary and Martha had two different serving styles, not necessarily better, just unique to them. Mary’s way of serving was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him. Listening can be seen as an underrated way of serving. However, the ministry of listening and the ministry of presence can be just as powerful as the “doing”. I believe Mary’s listening helped Jesus and vice versa, making their relationship stronger together.

Also, in verse 40, Martha is comparing herself to Mary and complaining that she was not serving the way she thought she should be serving.  But Mary stayed true to herself and did it her way. In ministry, we need to know how we serve best. We should not compare ourselves to how others are doing ministry or serving God. We are to serve God the way we know is best for us. Stay in your ministry lane. Stay true to your gifts and calling when you serve God. Please the Lord by doing what you do best and don’t try to be what you are not.

Your gifts are special and specific in God’s kingdom and God will use you as He sees fit.  Your gifts will make room for you. Live them out and let God open the doors for you. Don’t spend your energy comparing yourself to someone else. There is enough work for us all to do, no need to compare ourselves, complain or get jealous.

In the end, Martha and Mary both served the Jesus in their own unique way and Jesus received each of their gifts of serving.

Bianca Robinson Howard serves at Zion Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, as associate minister and the full-time children and youth pastor/director.