Word Wednesday: What Jesus Really Meant When He told Martha Mary had Chosen the Better/ Agathos


In His Presence quote



I’m sharing a little bit of A Mary Like Me today. This is an excerpt of one of my favorite chapters…well…personally, I like all of the chapters, but THIS ONE is close to my heart. The book was written to encourage women to step out into their calling. Sometimes we compare ourselves to talented peers and saintly biblical women and decide we can’t do what God’s calling us to do.

But camaraderie in our human weaknesses grants us strength to go for the dream.

The Church has placed Martha’s sister, Mary of Bethany, on a holy pedestal. But she was so very human. Every disciple of Christ was.

Did she really sit at Jesus’ feet because she chose the better thing to do? Was it her holiness or rebelliousness that first landed her at His feet rather than setting the table for supper?

I was once a little sister, and I always tried to get out of doing the dishes. Maybe she did too.

The reason for my debate is her name. Many women in biblical times were named Mary, but she was called Mary. (Luke 10:39). The name meant bitter, rebellious, and defiant. Please keep this in mind as we watch her actions.

Just in case you don’t know the story or you need a refresher, it went something like this:

Jesus and His disciples showed up on Martha and Mary’s (the sisters of Lazarus) doorstep hungry. It was a surprise visit. He hadn’t called ahead. Martha frantically started cooking and preparing for dinner, but Mary just sat down with Jesus and the disciples. Martha was mad. This is the rest of the story…

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all 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 away from her.” Luke 10:40-42


It’s quite possible that Mary was simply rebelling against Martha and the customs of the day if her name represented her character. But there is something even more wonderful in Jesus’ response that we have missed.

Washed by the Water-Laurenleeart




….We traditionally hear Jesus’ reply to Martha as, “Mary has chosen the better.” But there are other ways to translate this answer. The Greek word is agathos (ag-ath-os’). It means: good, better, benevolent, profitable, and useful.

What if Jesus actually told Martha that Mary had chosen the better useful activity?

In the context of the story, it makes sense. Remember, Martha is complaining that Mary isn’t helping; she isn’t being useful. Martha isn’t asking Jesus to tell her sister to do something better. She is demanding for Jesus to make her sister be useful in preparing the meal. Despite her demands, Jesus tells Martha that Mary is doing the useful thing.

How could sitting at His feet be useful? Mary’s actions were useless and non-beneficial to Martha, but her actions were useful to Jesus.

….I’ve struggled with my own calling of God to preach and teach the Word. I’ve researched, heart-searched, and cried out to Jesus for answers concerning women in ministry. Can only men be pastors and preachers?

This question stirs controversy, but Jesus’ acceptance of women to join His disciples as students was the model we must remember.

It was acceptable and good for Mary to take on this new position.

Words written years later by Paul were personified by Jesus the night He stayed in Bethany.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-28).


When Jesus saw Mary B. sitting at His feet with the disciples, He didn’t see a woman; He saw her heart—a heart that desired to serve Christ.

This is what He sees when He looks at us. We are free to serve no matter what our gender may be. We are also free to serve with the personalities He gave us….sometimes bitter, rebellious, and defiant.


[tweetability]In His Presence our bitter becomes sweet, our weaknesses become strengths. But only in His Presence.[/tweetability]

~A Mary Like Me


Be rebellious today. Choose what is useful to the Kingdom. Sit at His feet. The dishes can wait.


With Joy,



The story behind the painting…The girl in the painting is named Mary, and she had just been baptized.


  1. Can’t wait to read your book Andy – Thanks for sharing! I agree with what you said about women serving in the church. Jesus loved women so much and I wish women would know the glory of it. Your book will encourage so many!
    Praying for the right publishing house to buy it:)

    1. Thank you Erika!

  2. venus schrader

    Thank you Andy. That was the whole loaf. I am Martha more than Mary most of the time. Seeking mans approval and doing what is expected. I pray that today I will be agathos.

    1. Hey Venus! I think you’re more of a Mary than you think!

  3. I can relate to both Mary and Martha, but always felt that Martha got a bad rap. I like “useful.” It does seem more fitting. Great post, Andy! -Beth

    1. That is one of the reasons why I’ve written this. In my book there is more about freeing the Martha’s to be who they are too. Love you Beth!

  4. Love it! I guess I’m a Mary with the name of Sandy.

    1. Thanks Sandy! I can see it. I know you are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *