2152) Type ‘A’ and Type ‘B’ in the Bible (part one of two)

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By Randy Alcorn, posted November 18, 2019 at: http://www.epm.org

“I wrote this article years ago, but it’s still timely, especially as we enter the holiday season.  From mid-November to early January, our lives change, bringing many things that are delightful, but which increase our pressure and fatigue.  May this article remind you to focus on what’s truly most important in this season, and to take time to sit at Jesus’ feet.” —Randy Alcorn


Luke 10:38-42  — 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.”


     There was work to be done.  After all, when Jesus came, the twelve came with Him.  The house needed to be swept.  Food would have to be prepared and the table set.  Twenty-six extra feet would require washing.  Bedding, too, must be arranged, as traveling dinner guests always spend the night.  If I don’t do it, Martha may have thought, it won’t get done.

     Housework and meal preparation were things no one else seemed to notice—unless they didn’t get done.  Perhaps no one could remember a time when Martha didn’t get them done, and she was determined this day would be no exception.

     Both Martha and Mary loved and served Jesus.  Yet one was a worker, the other a worshiper; one was a servant, the other a seeker.  Together, they paint contrasting pictures of the Christian life.

     In Luke’s account of that dinner, Martha is mentioned first.  She was probably the eldest, certainly the one in charge of the home.  She was a doer, a goal-oriented achiever, a believer in the work ethic who took pride in her accomplishments and thrived on success.  Today, Martha would make a good executive, coach, committee chairman, or Christian worker.  She is the “super homemaker” type—a compulsive cleaner and five-course meal server who wouldn’t be caught dead with dust on the refrigerator or frozen pizza in the oven.

     As is often the case with siblings, Mary was quite different.  Calm and relaxed, she seems more thoughtful and less tense than her sister.  Mary was a thinker, a listener, a contemplator.  Today we might describe her as “laid back” or “mellow,” while Martha tended to be “uptight.”

     Martha was a classic example of what some physicians call the “type A” personality, those aggressively involved in an endless struggle to achieve, to accomplish more in less time.  They see people as obstacles to their goals and have little tolerance for others’ deficiencies.

     Mary, on the other hand, was a “type B” personality.  Patient and low-key, she was people-oriented . It’s likely she often got distracted from her work to engage in conversation, much to Martha’s annoyance.

     Mary may have depended heavily on an impatient Martha to do her jobs for her.  Martha was the type who would hoe weeds; Mary was the type who would smell the flowers.

     Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to every pearl that dropped from His mouth.  It wasn’t every day that one could hear the Master, and she wasn’t about to miss this opportunity.

     Meanwhile, Luke tells us, Martha was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”  And a great deal did have to be done—all without vacuum, range, microwave, or even running water.

Martha is not criticized for working hard to be a good hostess, rather, for being distracted by her serving.  The word  translated “distracted” means “to be drawn about in different directions.”  We are not distracted to something, but away from something.  Martha was distracted from Jesus.

     Being distracted is not always bad.  One can be distracted from television, worry, eating, or even sin in general.  Mary was distracted, too—from the housework.  But more important, she was compelled to her Lord.

     Put yourself in Martha’s position.  She had had it.  Perhaps the bread had burned, the drinks had spilled, and the kitchen was a mess.  No one else was bothered, but perfectionist Martha lived under the self-imposed pressure that made her endure such occasions rather than enjoy them.

     She prided herself in serving dinner on time, and it was already late.  Meanwhile, every time she breezed past the front room, her eyes focused on her sister Mary, blissfully seated at the feet of Jesus.

     It’s not that listening to Jesus was wrong, of course. Martha would do the same if time permitted.  But it didn’t, or so she told herself.

     To Martha, Mary’s behavior was sheer laziness and the height of insensitivity.  Unfortunately, her own insensitivity in not spending time with Jesus never dawned on her.

     Having put up with this situation for more than long enough, Martha marched into the front room, to the amazement of her guests.  The Greek words used in verse 40 imply suddenness or haste.

     Stepping right up to her honored guest, she said, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”

     In essence, Martha accused not only her sister but also Christ of insensitivity and injustice.  Here is the Messiah, the Savior, God incarnate—not the kind of person to whom one barks out orders.  But Martha lost sight of whom she was dealing with.  She allowed Jesus’ lordship to be eclipsed by her own grievances.

     Martha was a lot like Peter—energetic, strong-willed, and ready to give advice, even to her Lord.  When she should have been quietly listening to Him, she was loudly challenging Him.   (continued…)