Luke 10:38-42 “Martha, Mary and the Important House Guest”

Opening conversation

  • Talk about the preparations that need to be made when getting ready for house guests.
  • How do you respond when preparing for house guests or a dinner party?  Are you excited, tense, relaxed, distracted, frustrated, etc?

The host often doesn’t have a chance to enjoy their guests because of all the work that needs to be accomplished.


It’s not every day a family has a more important house guest than Martha as described in Luke 10.  She lived in Bethany with her sister Mary.  Lazarus, their brother, whom we meet in John’s gospel, may or may not have lived in the same house.  The house is described as Martha’s, and was large enough to keep a number of guests.  This was impressive in Jesus’ day.

Preparing the house for a group of guests, especially when one of them is as important as Jesus, is tough.  All the rooms, bed linens and towels need to be clean.  Martha would want to provide one of her best meals, bur arranging the meal on top of everything else added to her stress.  She’d wonder how long they were staying, what to serve for breakfast, and if she had enough iced tea made.  OK, so they didn’t serve iced tea.  There were no freezers, microwaves, and Martha did not have access to a large grocery store down the street.  Martha was, as many of us would be, dashing around as she prepared even though her guests were already in the house.  To add to her tension, Mary who should have been helping Martha was just sitting listening to Jesus.  Martha was not happy with her little sister.

Read Luke 10:38-42

Many of us would have reacted the way Martha did.  “Mary, there’ll be time to talk after the beds are made, the meals cooked, and the dishes have been washed.”  Martha even appealed to Jesus in her attempt to get Mary’s help.

  • How did Luke describe Martha in Luke 10:39?
  • Who did Jesus say had a problem?  What does Jesus say to Martha?

This story doesn’t mean Jesus was not enjoying their hospitality, nor does it mean you should not care for guests.  Hospitality is vey important for Christians.  The key to the story is in Jesus’ comment to Martha.  Luke tells us she was distracted, and Jesus tells her she is “worried and upset about many things.”  Jesus isn’t mean to her; his comments are more of a loving correction.

Worry and hurry are thieves.  They rob us of our ability to be present where we are.  They hinder us from paying attention to our current responsibilities, and stop us from enjoying those we are with.  Martha’s way of rush, hurry and distraction are not, according to Jesus, a positive model for life no matter how highly they are valued in our culture.

  • Read Matthew 6:25-34 and talk about what Jesus says about worry.
  • Read Philippians 4:6-7.
  • How does Paul say we should respond to our worry and anxiety?
  • What is God’s promise when we respond as Paul instructs?

Action is important, and at some point in our story the meal would have been cooked and the beds made.  But action is not our first priority, especially in the Christian life.  We never see Jesus in a rush, and he always knows what to do.  Mary teaches us our activity comes from listening.  Even our activity for Jesus takes second place to sitting at his feet.  There is always more to do than we can fit into our schedule, and the only way you know what is truly important is by spending time at Jesus’ feet.  He even teaches us how to pace our life.  Abundance is not found in frantic multi-tasking.  Abundance requires a balance that begins with listening and then moves to action.


So, what do we do, quit cleaning house?  We still need to be responsible, but with a different focus.  We commit to listen to Jesus, and live at a more comfortable pace.  Our lives need balance.  We rest and listen to Jesus.  We then move to work and serve, but only to the degree that our service does not destroy our listening.

  • Do you ever fall prey to “hurry” sickness?  In what ways do we try and legitimize it?
  • Set time aside to simply enjoy the moment and the people you are with.
  • Set time aside, even if it is just a few minutes a day, to pray and listen to the Lord.  Don’t just do something – sit there.
  • Stop, look and listen are basic to how we teach our children to cross the street.  This simple lesson is just as important in our life of faith.  Intentionally build time in your day to imitate Mary.  If you are too busy for this, then you are too busy.
  • The question is not whether we will face worry in life, but how we respond to it.  We do not need to react like Martha who permitted worry to distract and rob her of life.  When you are faced with worry, follow God’s promise found in Philippians 4:6-7.
  • In what specific situations do you see yourself reacting like Martha?  How could you add some Mary balance to your life at these times?  Share with the group and be ready to receive wisdom from each other.

    “I find he never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness.” Thomas R. Kelly