Hospitality is a massive pillar in the Christian life. We all have that friend who excels at serving others in just the right way they need to be served, and, in turn, we all envy that friend for their spiritual gift. But, motives are everything, and we see in the story of Mary and Martha that Christ cares more about our motives than our acts of service.

The two sisters contrasted in Luke’s account are mirror reflections of us; we can put ourselves in either of their places in our lives today in terms of where we place our priorities. Mary, who never speaks, is pictured sitting at the Lord’s feet, encapsulated by His every word. Instead of following Middle Eastern societal norms of hospitality that were expected of women, she chose to prioritize the teaching of Christ.

“Two verbs attributed to Mary: she sat and she listened. She becomes the model to follow, according to Luke, for everything He is about to teach until Jesus goes to the cross.” – Brian Frost

Martha, however, knew there was work to be done, and knew it was expected of her to serve. She wanted to listen and wanted to sit down, but she felt pulled away from what she wanted. She was planting her heart in Jewish culture; she was doing the right thing. The Son of God was sitting in the other room teaching, and Martha chose instead to serve. Her misplaced priorities lead to the evaporation of her peace, and ultimately she exploded, inditing Jesus and accusing Him of a careless heart.

How does Jesus respond to this impassioned accusation? He acknowledges her feelings of anxiety and her troubled heart and proceeds to invite her to sit and listen. He doesn’t match her irritation; He doesn’t discipline her in front of everyone. Instead, He lovingly invites her to put down her knife, take off her apron, and sit at His feet. He knew she was kind to serve Him and the disciples, but He wanted her to see that there was a better meal being served in her home than the one she was preparing, one that was necessary and life-giving.

“Mary chose the good portion, and Jesus is telling Martha that there is a better meal being served in her house that Mary is enjoying. Then, Jesus invites her to join.” – Brian Frost

Christ’s words to Martha land on everyone, even us today: Hospitality is right and good, but it’s not, and should not be, first. If our activity in this life is not directed by God and motivated by His love and grace to us, it will rob us of our peace as it did Martha. We cannot say we should be Mary and not Martha. The world is in constant need of Marthas, but we must be Mary first so that we can be a Martha motivated by an overflow of grace.


  1. The first priority in life is to listen to God’s Word. (Luke 10: 38-39)

    1. Psalm 119:103 — Mary literally came and sat as close to Jesus as physically possible to listen to Him teach. She was enthralled.

  2. When God’s Word is not our priority, we lose our peace. (Luke 10:40) 

    1. Matthew 4:4 — God created us to need two different kinds of food, one for our body and one for our soul. When our tummy is hungry, we become irritable. When our soul is empty, we also become irritable and we tend to act shamefully and cause relationships to suffer.

  3. When we lose peace, God invites us to listen to His Word. (Luke 10:41-42) 

    1. Matthew 6:31-33 — One thing is necessary and it’s Jesus.



  • Have you trusted Christ and been reconciled to God? 

  • Do you prioritize time in God’s word? 

  • What are the motives behind your busyness? 

  • Are you looking to Christ throughout your distracting days? 



Sometimes it can feel like we don’t have a choice. Busyness can consume, and tasks, carpools, budgets, calls, etc., can become the top priority. Just like physical hunger, when our souls are hungry we become irritable and distraught. By spending daily, consistent time in God’s word, we nourish our souls and reinstate peace in our hearts. Whether you’re beginning your day or ending your day listening to His Word, it is necessary in order to bring peace into our lives. And, this nourishment and grace then overflow into our decisions and actions. We are then able to serve others with happy hearts and kingdom intentions. 


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