"The aged women likewise, that they be in behavioiur as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." --Titus 2:3-5
"Let not a widow be taken into the number under three-score years old, having been the wife of one man, well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. ... I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully." --1 Timothy 5:9-10, 14
"Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did." --Acts 9:36
"I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: that ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also." --Romans 16:1-2
"Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles." --Romans 16:3-4
"Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." --Luke 10:38-42
"There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment." --John 12:2-3
For years I have had the impression, and heard it preached, that we should be Marys and not Marthas. That you can't be both. That Mary chose the better part, and so should we. That we should be in the presence of the Lord all the time, and not be serving. That Martha did not learn her lesson the first time, that she didn't grow, that she's still stuck in the serving mode the second time a year later.
If all that is true, then what do we do with the other verses in the New Testament, the ones that clearly teach that we must work and serve? What about all those women who worked and served, and were commended for their working and serving?
All this time I've thought that the difference between Mary and Martha was in what they did. I now believe the difference lay in the attitude of the heart. We all have different gifts and abilities. I believe Martha's gift was serving. She just needed to adjust her attitude about it.
There is a major difference between Martha's first service in Luke and her second service in John. More on that next.