I had the opportunity to preach about Mary and Martha recently. A very familiar story about how 2 sisters respond to Jesus coming to their house for a visit. A friend asked how I would be presenting the story, and I simply texted:

Martha bad, Mary good

I was kidding of course. But I reflected on how often that is the case in how the story is presented, as if it has a very simple object lesson to share with society for all time. Be like Mary, not like Martha. In fact, the biblical account actually focuses mostly on Martha, it is said to be her home in which this all happens, and Mary is kind of a footnote. But when we talk about the 2 sisters, who comes first? Mary.

It says a lot about us, how we interact with stories such as this one, the interpretation we take with us, the judgement we infer on how people do or say what they will. It happens a lot in church culture, but really, it is a part of us all. One does the right thing, the other is wrong, and we can all point it out easily. My perspective is that Mary and Martha, or Martha and Mary, are a part of all our response systems when challenged with how we welcome or help another.

It seems like there could be 2 spectrums on which we land:

Being or Doing?

This is a status test. It is where we situate ourselves in most circumstances. Is it about my understanding of my role in the given scenario? Or is it about what my responsibility might be in the moment? Your preference here lies in whether you see everyone ‘being’ in their correct role, or if it is about everyone taking part in active duty, regardless of what that means.

People or Tasks?

This is a function test. Do you gravitate more towards situations where you are relating and connecting with people? Or do you see yourself in situations where the focus is on a set of tasks or functions which need to be completed? Maybe you like both, so concentrate on times where you have to make a decision, and your mind quickly connects more with one or the other.

What do the quadrants look like, you ask? Well, this is how I imagine them, if ‘being’ is the top, and ‘people’ is to the left, moving clockwise:


You assume positions where you can connect, welcome, envision, and have facetime.


You prefer being in the heart of what is happening, but mostly directing traffic, making sure things are getting done, and keeping things in motion, together.


You do not like to be noticed or having people notice you, let alone talking about what needs to be done. Behind the scenes, focused on getting it done, possibly even without much interaction with other ‘doers’.


You may not like centre stage, or directing people where to go, but you enjoy the impact of working together and remaining busy. Work, task completion, is more fun together.

Mary and Martha would have fit into all 4 of these quadrants, but at different times. You might find the same for yourself, but it is helpful to know how you respond in most situations. If you work with a team it is most helpful to understand this about one another, so you can help each other do your best. And of course, feel good about the work you do!

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