The book “Mary, Martha, and Me” by Camille Fronk Olson offers new insight into the biblical account of the two sisters from Bethany, one who sat at the feet of Jesus and let her sister do all the work in preparing the meal. As we remember from the story, Martha had been working hard to make her home ready for her special guest, and Mary chose instead to sit at Christ’s feet and listen to his words. Christ spoke to Martha, not angrily but gently, as He commended her for her diligence, but then told her that Mary had chosen that good part. From this story, we learn that the words of Christ are the most important things we can have on this earth.
Sister Olson takes the story in a few new directions, opening up the realm of understanding even further. She points out that it is not merely the words of Christ that are so important, but Christ Himself. We must get to know Him, accept Him, worship Him and internalize Him. She also points out that Christ was not comparing Mary and Martha. He was not chastising either one of them. He simply pointed out that each had chosen something different. Mary’s choice would have lasting value, but He also appreciated Martha’s service.
We then go on to examine how Martha accepted Christ’s words. Later in scripture we see her acting in great faith. She is the sister who runs to Christ and tells Him that she knows He can bring Lazarus back from the dead, even though he has been gone for so long. She stays in the background as Mary annoints Christ’s feet with spikenard, not trying to put herself in the forefront. She learned the powerful principle of selfless service, which is service we render because it’s the right thing to do, not because we want praise for it.
Sister Olson shows us how important both Mary and Martha were. They completed each other. And we can learn to balance the Mary in us with the Martha in us and learn how to serve and listen at the same time.
(This book was published in 2006 by Deseret Book.)