Ever been so consumed with a project that you forgot the real reason you started did it? Martha in the Bible and I would relate to you. It’s natural to want everything to be perfect, but we have to put it in proper perspective, nothing is ever perfect.

In this study, we need to ask ourselves questions about Martha to make her situation more real to us.

  • What did Martha do in the Bible?
  • What is the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible?
  • What are the qualities of Martha?
  • How can we relate to her situation?

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What is the Story of Martha in the Bible?

Most people have a negative image of Martha. She becomes overzealous in her job as hostess for Jesus and forgets the importance behind what she is doing. Becoming aggressive, she criticizes her sister for not helping and Jesus mildly rebukes her.

There is a lot more to Martha than meets the eye.

What is the Meaning of Martha?

The name Martha came from the Chaldee or Syricac language, it’s the feminine of “moro” or “more” and means “Lord,” “Master.”

Martha is mentioned in three passages in scripture with her sister Mary and, sometimes, her brother Lazarus. She and her siblings were personal friends of Jesus. Her story centers around this. Martha’s generosity in preparing meals for others, owning her own home, and the cost of the oil Mary used in the anointing of Jesus leads to the idea that this family was wealthy.

They lived in Bethany, 2 miles east of Jerusalem.

Bible Verses about Martha’s Hosting Jesus and the Disciples

Martha was gracious and happy to have Jesus in her home.  She wanted the very best for Him.

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 only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.” Luke 10:38-42 NIV

Martha had become so busy and occupied in her thoughts about being neglected that she brought this to Jesus’ attention. How often do we do the very same thing?  We start out with a heart for others but then become overwhelmed in the activities and take our eyes off of Jesus.

Bible Verses about Martha and the Resurrection of Lazarus

Martha is mentioned in the first part of this passage with her sister Mary and their concern for Lazarus.

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair.  So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” John11:1-3 NIV

Jesus was told about the sickness of Lazarus but did not go right away because there were unfolding circumstances that would lead to His glory. He waited 2 more days before going to Bethany. This, I’m sure added to Martha’s and Mary’s stress.

On His arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard Jesus was coming, she went out to meet Him, but Mary stayed at home.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes Lord,” she told Him, “I believe You are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” John11:17-27 NIV

Here, we see a side of Martha that is a great witness of her faith in Jesus Christ that many could not compete with. She is a woman of great love and compassion.

Bible Verses about Martha when Mary Anointed Jesus with Oil

This passage only mentions Martha briefly but I thought it worth noting, again, her servant’s heart in honor of Jesus.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here [in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper] a dinner was given in Jesus’. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair.  And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. – John 12:1-3

 Martha is in a different place in her life as she has accepted what Jesus has for her in her life.  She serves without complaint.

Who Was Martha in the Bible?

Characteristics of Martha in the Bible

These passages show that Martha had many qualities to be admired.  We all have character weaknesses but, like Martha, we can overcome them with our reliance on the Lord.

Martha was Faithful

One of Martha’s qualities is that of her faith in Jesus Christ. In the midst of her sorrow, she knows that He can do whatever it takes to help Lazarus.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if You had been here my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give You whatever Your ask.” Luke 10:38 NIV

“Yes,Lord,” she told Him, “I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” Luke 10:27 NIV

She is committed to Jesus because of her faith in who He is.

Martha was Hospitable

As noted in the passages of study, Martha had the gift of serving people in her home. It was something she cared about doing well.

As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. Luke 10:38 NIV 

It takes a person with concern for others to open up their home and welcome them in.

Martha was a Woman of Compassion and Sorrow

Mary and Martha were so concerned about Lazarus, they sent word to Jesus that he was sick.

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair.  So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” John11:1-3 NIV

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “ if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.” John 1:21 NIV

Martha’s sorrow was so great for Lazarus she rebuked Jesus because He had taken too long in coming to her brother’s aid.

Martha was Anxious

Martha had become encumbered with all the preparation for the meal and allowed anxiety to overcome her.

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!” John 10:40 NIV

Martha had taken her eyes off of the reason for her labor which was serving Jesus.  How often do we take our eyes off of Him and become involved in ourselves?

Martha Had the Wrong Focus

I can see myself in Martha when I take my eyes off of Jesus. Then the Lord has to rebuke me as He did her.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41 NIV

Even in His rebuke, He was gentle with Martha.

What Does the Story of Martha Teach Us?

There are several lessons we can learn from Martha in the Bible. Some good, and some not so good.  All can be used for us in our lives.

Put Jesus First

This is so easy to say. It should be the motto for our lives. John is our example of a Christian with the right attitude.

He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30 ESV

Very simply put and the primary lesson for us from Martha’s life. I’m sure knowing others have benefitted from her mistake would encourage her.

Be a Woman of Faith

We need to be true to what we believe. I want to be as strong as Martha in her faith.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who has promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 ESV

Martha did not let her sorrow and disappointment affect her faith. She held fast.

Be Hospitable

Just because Martha became too involved in “doing” doesn’t erase the need for giving our time and homes to others.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:8-9 ESV

Martha was a kind and generous woman.  We would do well to follow her lead in concerns for others.

Be Not Anxious

 Anxiety is where Martha got in trouble. When our thoughts become anxious, we need to stop and go to the Lord in prayer.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NKJ

The Lord has given us this promise that He will take care of our anxiety if we just ask. He gives us peace that is beyond our understanding.

God Still Loves Us

 Martha was not a bad person because she made a mistake. She was working hard out of love for Jesus and He appreciated it. Her home was a place of comfort for Him. Martha belonged to Him just as we do and He doesn’t stop loving us when we sin.

Do Your Own Study of Martha in the Bible

If you would like to do your own Bible study of Martha, make sure to download the Bible study worksheet kits. Use the character study kit to do your own in-depth study of any biblical character.

Bible Study Worksheet Kits

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Jackie Stubblefield

Meet the Author

Jackie writes at From Loss to Hope by God’s Word where she seeks to encourage women who are going through tough times to find hope and strength in Jesus.