Family: Martha Gets a Bad Rap

Guest Post by Pam Taylor

Pam Taylor

Pam Taylor

One reason we experience stress in our family and in relationships is our differences. God created each of us with different personality types and different spiritual gifts. We subconsciously expect people – even family members – to see things from the same perspective as we do.

I see this problem nearly every day as I coach women and families.

The Bethany family fell into this trap. Let’s look at this little family at a time when Jesus and friends stop by unexpectedly.

Does Martha Get a Bad Rap?

Jesus was close friends with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha – three siblings who lived in Bethany. He and the disciples often used their home as mission base.

Twelve houseguests. Does the idea make your palms sweat?

“Now as they were traveling along, He {Jesus} entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary who moreover was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet.” (Luke 10:38-39, NAS). Whenever Jesus was in town, this is where you would find Mary…sitting at Jesus’ feet.

But what about Martha?  She gets busy. She was at the door welcoming Jesus and friends, bustling about to show them to the “parlor” and helping them to get comfortable. Martha is often portrayed as an angry, bossy, tattle-tale because she complained that her sister wouldn’t help her in the kitchen. But Martha is a doer. She prepares the meal. She practices protocol. Let’s do a bit of a character study on Martha and see what things look like from her viewpoint. What are some of Martha’s strengths?

  • She was detail-oriented
  • She would have responded better if she had known about the visit in advance
  • She gets worried by surprises
  • She follows routine because routine has worked for her
  • She loves others deeply (but may find it difficult to show love)
  • She wants to make sure the tasks are done just right, so she does not do them quickly
  • She will complete the task and always do what is expected of her, no matter what
  • She asks questions so she understands the whole picture, which can appear “fussy” (she is trying to minimize risk or failure)
  • She has high quality standards (which means fear of failure can cause her to have an “attitude”)
  • Were Martha’s Strengths the Problem?

Martha’s traits are typical for a Structured personality type – a person who is conscientious and systematic. She could be irritating, but also efficient and focused.

Although Martha wanted everything to be done well, to some she may appear to be mean and selfish. Martha gets angry that her sister was not helping her. After all, there was a room full of men to feed and clean up after!  “She came up to Him (Jesus) and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” (Luke 10:40).

Once during a Bible study, I complained that Martha got a bad rap because she was stressed with so many mouths to feed. The pastor looked me straight in the eyes and with great restraint, said, “It was JESUS!” I laughed out loud. I knew what he meant: Jesus could instantly create a meal for all of them.

Jesus was not annoyed with Martha’s strengths nor did He dismiss those traits as inconsequential. He knew that Martha was a doer. He “got” her. Martha was being what God had created her to be.

But He also reminded Martha to take the time to spend with Him.

Jesus’ admonition did not diminish Martha’s conscientious, organizational skills. Rather He wanted her to see that she undervalued Mary’s strengths. Mary was being what God created her to be, too.

Worship (Mary) and service (Martha) are both valuable in the kingdom.

Martha doesn’t get a bad rap from Jesus for her strengths. Rather, Jesus cautioned her not to elevate the value of her strengths over those of others. Mary’s strengths were valuable, too.

The Marthas and Marys In Your Life

I focus on Martha because her example illustrates an important point for us today. Martha is often vilified, rejected, and criticized, yet she has great value and worth. When we discover our own strengths and each other’s strengths, we stop trying to change each other. Rather we appreciate each other’s personality strengths and spiritual gifts are all for the benefit of ministering to others and for the glory of God. Only God sees the bigger completed picture.

Yet too often, we don’t realize that, “Of course that person is acting that way! That is the way he was created.” That doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse to not be a team player. Each of us, with our differences, is only a piece of the puzzle and the puzzle is not complete without all the personality types working together for the common purpose of being the best team we can be for the glory of God. We can’t all be corner puzzle pieces or the outer edge pieces. Each piece is necessary and important and special.

As we come to understand and learn to love each other better, we are better able to bring out the best in one another. This is not a competition. It is life.

And it’s a good rap for everybody.

Pam Taylor lived as a missionary to third world countries and was a single homeschooling mom to her two (now grown) children before training as a coach at the Professional Christian Coaching Institute (PCCI). Since then, she left her drudgery of a job to live her dream and has been a professional coach since 2009. Pam uses her spiritual gift of encouragement to help women build a better life, learn to stop comparisons, and become more fully who God intended them to be. Visit Pam online at

Family Insights Profile empower families to discover and use your God-given strengths, to value each other’s strengths, and to blend.

More about Using Strengths in the Family

Pushy Parenting: Is It a Strength?

The Benefits to Knowing Your Child’s Strength

How to Help Friends and Family Apply the Profile