Text: Luke 10:38-42

“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 KJV)

The passage above is often interpreted to be a choice between Mary or Martha. Hence, there is a popular saying – “Don’t be a Martha. Be a Mary.”

However, if we examine the passage carefully, we would see that Jesus was not rebuking Martha for serving as a host. In fact, John 12:2 describes Martha’s service at the table in a favourable light. Christ’s rebuke was instead directed at Martha’s frustration with Mary who was not helping in household chores.

Thus this passage should not be viewed as a reproof for being busy for the Lord. Jesus Himself laboured hard in teaching and preaching during His earthly ministry. The Apostle Paul was also known for his earnest toiling and agonising for the gospel. In his epistles, Paul often commended his labourers for their diligent service in Christ. The household of Stephanas was praised for having addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints (1 Cor. 16:15). Indeed, Christians must not be “slothful in business” but “fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11). No lazy Christians in the work of the Lord.

We must be careful not to misapply this passage. There may be times when certain brethren must serve in other areas during messages or Bible studies to ensure that events run smoothly. For example, during our annual Vacation Bible School, some brethren are involved in preparing the food while the children are having their lessons. Not all can be involved in teaching or hearing of the lessons. Otherwise, there will be many hungry children! How then will the children be able to concentrate for the rest of the activities?

The problem with Martha was her unjustified complaint of her sister Mary. Martha had misjudged the situation. The Lord Jesus Christ was not always physically present in Bethany. Now that Christ was in the house, it was a most wonderful opportunity to learn first-hand from the infallible Teacher Himself. Mary understood that God’s Word must occupy the highest priority in our life. Thus, Christ commented that Mary had chosen the “necessary” and “good part”. Those who seek after God’s Word in all humility shall never be turned away!

Similarly, it is so easy for us to be distracted by the hustle and bustle of life, and rely on the arm of flesh to handle the various situations that come our way. We neglect our Quiet Time, and fail to engage ourselves in the study of the Scriptures. It is such moments that we must recall the example of Mary and have God’s Word as the highest priority in our life. Remember that “man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.” (Deuteronomy 8:3 KJV)

In addition, we must understand that a firm grounding in the Holy Scriptures is necessary to be more effective in the Lord’s work. When the Word of God dwells in us richly, we will know how to serve in a manner that pleases God. On the other hand, a man who is deficient in the Bible will rely often on his fallible thinking and ideas. He may be a diligent worker, but his service will not be pleasing unto the Lord.

May we therefore learn from the example of Mary and make the learning of God’s Word the highest priority in our lives.



We have begun a new sermon series on the Book of Ezra. This book deals with the theme of restoration and service. We will study how the LORD brought about spiritual and physical restoration in Israel, and how these same principles are applied today.

In the last sermon, we saw how God in His perfect timing moved the hearts of Cyrus to allow people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild it. This was in fulfilment of the prophecy spoken by Jeremiah that Israel will return to the land after seventy years. Indeed, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1 KJV)

There are some among us who may be attending job interviews. Others may need to answer to difficult bosses. Finally, there may be some who are worried about possible changes in the work place. May this passage be of great comfort to you. God is in control of the affairs of the world, including the hearts of kings and princes. Nothing happens by chance or “luck”. All things will work according to His eternal decrees unto the glory of God, and for the good of His children (Romans 8:28). Let your mind be stayed on the LORD, and He will grant you His perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).


The following is a timeline of key events to aid us in the study of the book of Ezra.

Event Estimated Date
Destruction of Northern Kingdom. 722 B.C.
1st deportation of Judah to Babylon. Daniel taken away. 605 B.C.
2nd deportation of Judah to Babylon. Ezekiel taken away. 597 B.C.
3rd deportation of Judah to Babylon. Jeremiah taken away. 586 B.C.
Zerubbabel returns with 1st wave of returnees. 538 B.C.
Prophetic ministry of Haggai and Zechariah 520 B.C.
Temple rebuilt. 515 B.C.
The reign of Ahasuerus begins. 486 B.C.
Ezra returns with 2nd wave of returnees. 458 B.C.
Nehemiah returns with 3rd wave of returnees. Walls of Jerusalem
445 B.C.
Nehemiah’s first terms as governor. 445-433 B.C.
Nehemiah returns to Persia. 424-410 B.C.
Nehemiah’s 2nd term as governor. 424-410 B.C.


Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew