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Thankfulness Project: Mary the Sister of Lazarus, who Prioritized Jesus

I'm a daughter, granddaughter & niece of pastors. I love God & studying the Bible and want to empower others to do the same.


As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” -Luke 10:38-42

I’ve been a Martha most of my life: I’m a recovering busyness-addicted, achieving, do-it-all, and it was exhausting. I’m so thankful that I’m not alone in this either. Martha (and some of my friends) have been too. And while there’s nothing wrong with being good stewards of our homes and making sure things are clean and there is food to eat at mealtimes... But there is a problem when cleaning and doing our task list becomes more important and is more of a priority than spending time with Jesus or our families—the people we’re allegedly cleaning and cooking for. Sometimes I’ve had to ask myself though, was it really all for them? Or was it to calm the little gremlin voices of anxiety and shame (especially from social media and other women’s lives that look more put together) in my head that too often drive my thoughts and actions and create lists that are impossible? If I think I’m not allowed to rest or sit or breathe ever until “everything” is done, then I have a problem. Maybe I’m not delegating enough, maybe I’m taking on too much. Maybe I’m too perfectionist to accept help because no one will do it as “well” as I will (and at what point is just being done better than being “perfect”? Perfection is an exhausting, cruel taskmaster!). Maybe the people in my house are being lazy and I need to set down consequences for their not stepping up to help and do their part. Maybe I need to schedule more “white space” in my calendar, instead of thinking every blank space needs to be booked with activity. There are lots of reasons why, lots of little steps in how I can become a Martha, but it’s important to look at the priority Mary chose.


What was The MOST Important Thing to her, in looking at her schedule? Jesus. Is that mine? Do I make time with Jesus a daily PRIORITY (whenever works best for me to be uninterrupted and hear from God) in prayer And the Bible? Do I set clear, firm boundaries for this Bible time so that I’m not absentmindedly on my phone, or allowing everyone in my family to interrupt me? (Sometimes I think that’s why Jesus left the house and went outside to pray or in a closet—do what you have to do, whatever works). Am I praying “without ceasing” about all the big and small in my life and handing those people and concerns over to God, or am I grasping them tightly in order to be the problem-solver and solution-finder for everyone and everything? Do I have humility enough to let go of perfection and the world’s image of what I and my house and my life should look like and instead ignore those pressures to worship and obey my Savior? There is another great Mary example, showcasing her humility and great value of Jesus, that can help me get where I need to be:

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany...Mary took about a pint of expensive perfume, made of pure nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But...Judas Iscariot, who was going to betray Him, asked, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” …“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “She has kept this perfume in preparation for the day of My burial. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me.” -John 12:1-8

She anointed Him, revered Him, humbled herself before Him, and gave Him probably the most expensive thing she owned, something she may have been holding on to for years, awaiting the appropriate occasion to use it.


Luke 7 adds more detail to her account:

When the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Jesus answered him...“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

We don’t know exactly what sins she had been forgiven from, but we know that they were great. She committed the “big sins” (not that any actually are, compared to Jesus’ perfection) that some people gossip about in church in whispers behind their hands. The stuff that other women might not have wanted to befriend her because of— after all, “she might be a bad influence” even though this woman obviously had repented. (unfortunately, sometimes people ignore a sin when it’s being committed, and only want to judge the sinner after they’ve repented, and devalue them for having sinned, instead of the sin itself).

But because Mary had been forgiven much, she understood grace, and she was more grateful to her Savior than perhaps anyone else in that room might have been at that moment. We can see it in how she treated Jesus: wiping his feet with her hair, anointing them with her most valuable possession, crying tears of joy and gratitude for Him, His presence and salvation. This is proof of her repentance: the humility and joy of forgiveness and redemption. In this, I have also been a Mary. My sins were numerous and illustrious as a teen and young adult before I whole-heartedly surrendered to Christ, before I knew how much He truly loves me. Though I was saved as a young girl, I didn’t know how deep salvation goes, how deep God’s love goes, how much He is willing to forgive when we repent and turn to Him. I didn’t understand love, or how and where to get it, or that it is a gift, not something we must earn from others by our actions and service to them.

On the day I truly discovered all this, realized the lengths God has gone to in order to woo me and win me back, because of the endless vastness of His undeserved love for me, I too fell to my knees and bathed the floor in my tears. First they were tears of disgust at my sin, tears of pain and hurt and loss at all those who’d never really loved me, who’d left me, who’d hurt me. And I handed it all over to Jesus and in that empty hole inside me poured, overflowed the Father’s love and salvation and forgiveness and healing. I stopped hating/being angry with (myself and them), stopped believing I was unworthy and realized God makes me worthy with His forgiveness and righteousness. I stopped longing for others to love me, or trying to earn their love by what I could do for them, and realized I am fully known yet still fully loved in Christ (and I started setting boundaries on what I will and won’t do for others’ affection or “good opinion” of me, because none should be more important than God’s). It doesn’t matter what anyone else says; I’m enough for my Savior, and never too much. I’m so thankful I’m not defined by what I achieve in a given day or in my lifetime—not in my career, house, cooking, cleaning, for others, how happy I make them, or even in my recreation or hobbies (which at one point I also turned into an achievement-based taskmaster). I am free and completely, endlessly loved and sufficient in Christ. So was Mary. And she knew this.


Though I still fight the urge and tendencies to be like Martha, I’m so thankful for the day God made me into a Mary and taught me that God gives rest. Not only does He grant and command a weekly “Sabbath” day of rest (which can be whatever day I choose), but He even lets me rest at times on other days. He says it’s ok for me to stop everything, put away my phone, and read my Bible first thing in the morning. It’s ok to turn my phone on silent or place it in another room during this time. It’s ok to spend time hidden in a closet or bedroom (or bathroom) in prayer at certain times. I’m thankful that like Mary, Jesus forgave and saved me, even from over-scheduling, over-working, and overachieving (which is what society pushes and guilts all of us into, as if we’re bad people and failures if we don’t have it all, do it all, and make it look effortless and perfect in the process—hah!—no one does or can meet the world’s contradictory, impossible standards!). Jesus allows me to rest at His feet, to bask in His presence, to worship Him, and it “fills the room with the smell of sweet perfume.”

For more about this, read: Matt. 11:28-30, Ps. 32:1 & 42:5, Is. 44:22 & 55:7, Hab. 3:18.


© 2021 Amanda Lorenzo