Martha’s Syndrome

It is very hard to criticize someone who works hard to make others happy, right?

But sometimes it is very critical for us to call out people who work themselves out to the point of destroying their lives, marriages and families.

Let’s see one person in the Bible that represents this very character. By the way, I am not talking about “people pleaser” kind of personality. I call this particular personality as “Martha Syndrome.”

Let’s look at one passage of the Bible:

“Now as they [Jesus and His Disciples] were traveling along, He [Jesus] entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him 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.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”” Luke 10:38-42 NASB

Who has “Martha Syndrome” from the above story?

You guessed it!


Martha is a kind of woman who loves to have people over to her house. Is there anything wrong with that?

No! Actually the Bible says:

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” Romans 12:10-13 – Do you see it? It says, Practice hospitality!

Yes, we are called to be hospitable. However I am trying to address here a behavior that is not even accepted and approved by Jesus Christ Himself. So I want to address it as a syndrome, Martha Syndrome (MS). So, let’s see the signs and symptoms of MS:

  1. MS makes a person a perfectionist

There is nothing wrong with doing things in excellence but trying to do everything in perfection all the time and every time can actually be a tendency we need to battle against. It wears us out since we are not perfect and cannot do anything in perfection all the time and every time.

Well, “a woman named Martha welcomed Him [Jesus] into her home.” –

Martha invited Jesus with His Disciples into her home. And to entertain her guests, Martha runs up and down. I mean, sure, it demands some extra work to have and entertain people over to our house. That is not a sign of MS. From Martha’s mood and reaction, we can see that Martha wants everything to be the way she envisioned it. And to bring that vision into a reality, two of her hands won’t be good enough. So, she demands that others should follow suit, to leave what they do and do what she wants them to do. Not good for any relationship, especially to marriages.

2. MS makes a person to plan the day at the expense of others

For Martha, what is important for her is her plan, not the people who can be affected by her plan. If she wants to have people over, she doesn’t consider if her husband has other plans or if her husband doesn’t want anybody over since he plans to watch soccer that day. And she also doesn’t consider her kids’ inconvenience. Sometimes she plans the day asking her husband and kids however her husband and kids know very well that having a different plan than Martha’s plan can be a very costly thing to have, especially for her husband. She may ignore him for the next week or two and of course, sex is not something her husband dares to ask over the next two weeks. So, the easiest thing for her husband as well as her kids is to just follow suit against their wills and desires which in turn destroys their relationships with Martha.

3. MS makes a person label others

Martha, she works hard to make the house neat and clean, according to her standard. When she sweeps the floor and washes dirty dishes five hundred times a day so the house can be as clean as she wants it to be, she resents others who do something else that what she is doing, like watching TV or talking to someone on the phone. A person with MS finds it easy to label others as, “Lazy, careless, selfish, etc.”

You see, she is labeling others because she resents them. Because she carries resentments and calls others names, she pushes the most important people away from her life. Some husbands usually withdraw from this kind of “Martha” and live in their own world. This too is a dangerous threat to the health of a marriage as it destroys communications between a husband and a wife.

4. MS makes a person bossy

The problem with this sign is this: The person doesn’t know that they are bossing others around. They think they work hard for the well-being of everybody else in the house. At a surface level, this may look a virtuous act and can force others to shut their mouths because duh, the woman is working hard for them; she cleans and cooks for them. Mostly husbands complain or they just “submit” to the woman with MS so they can eat and live “peacefully.” The problem with that is God didn’t design relationships, especially marriages, to flourish in a place where one person bosses around the other party. Doing so kills all forms of relationships, especially marriages.

5. MS makes a person to lead a distracted life

Distract means “prevent (someone) from giving full attention to something.” That means a distracted person cannot give full attention to anything or anybody because they always have other multiple things to do at any moment of the day.

Notice the difference between Mary and Martha:

“She [Martha] had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations;” Luke 10:39-40a

What was Mary doing at the time? Sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to the words of eternal life (John 6:68). I mean, Jesus doesn’t live with them. He will leave after few minutes. And Mary doesn’t want to waste these few minutes on temporary things.

What was Martha doing?

Nothing in particular! She is “distracted!”

A person with MS usually doesn’t have “me and God time.” They just run and run the whole day. If you ask them why, they will say, “Unless I cook and feed my husband, he will die.”J This is not a joke by the way. This is a serious problem we all need to fight against. I mean, unless we sit at the feet of Jesus to read and study the word of God, to pray and reflect on the word of God, how can we be joyful in anything we do? We can’t! How can we have a good, peaceful and loving attitude towards people who live with us? We can’t. Living life as an independent of God is a good recipe to destroy marriages as well as any form of relationships.

6. MS fills a person with blaming and accusation

Since a person with MS leads a distracted life, all they see is how others don’t do the very things they want them to do. Again, the person with MS will say, “I am working hard for you! I am cooking so you eat! I clean the house so you will be happy! What do you do? Nothing!”

From their point of view, others should be rebuked and reprimanded. Listen what Martha says,

“But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him 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

Wow! Did you see that?

Who did Marth blame and accuse?

Both Mary and Jesus! Mary, for not helping her and Jesus, for not noticing how hard Martha was working and how He didn’t seem to discipline Mary who JUST sit at His feet, doing nothing.

Blaming and accusing others reflect on the person’s irresponsible life.

Martha shouldn’t plan things that she is unable to do. She has to know her limits and what she can do. She cannot blame her inability to achieve her goals on others. This too destroys relationships, especially marriages.

7. MS makes a person swim in the sea of “self-pity”

You know what self-pity does to us? Nothing but throws us into depression! Listen how self-pity sounds like:

“Lord, DO YOU NOT CARE that MY SISTER HAS LEFT ME to do all the serving ALONE? Then tell her to help me.” Luke 10:40b (capitalizations are mine)

This is simply being “a crying-baby!” – Martha sounded like, Jesus is a careless Person; and Mary is a selfish person who purposely left Martha to do “all the serving” all by herself!

Do you see it?

Martha is in a way saying, “I am working hard to mother everybody but everybody is taking advantage of me.”

The question to Martha is: Who said to you, “Mother me?”

The answer is no one! Not even her husband, and of course not the guests. If Martha has little kids, she should know better not to put extra things on her already full table.

8. MS makes a person attach their identity to what they do

You see, people with MS, unless they invite people over, or unless their house is neat and clean all the time and every time, they struggle with their identity. Why? They think that what they do is who they are. And if they cannot achieve the standard they set for themselves, they feel like a failure. That means, they lead life with stress and depression, losing their identity. To save themselves from this, they work themselves out 24/7 and they want others to do the same. This is a killer to any relationships, especially marriages!

9. MS makes a person look down on others

Who do you see running in the house to feed others?

Jesus? No! Mary? No! Jesus’ Disciples? No! Only Martha! According to Martha, others are useless and what they choose to do with their lives at any point in life is useless too unless they follow behind Martha and take orders from her so her dream home or dinner party will be a reality, all the time and every time. This sign by itself can destroy a beautiful marriage.

10. Solution!

Who has a solution to this nasty syndrome called Martha Syndrome?

Who else but Jesus Christ! May His name be praised forever!

Jesus saw Martha’s attitude; He saw what she was doing to herself and others; He also saw what others chose to do at that moment, including Mary. Jesus also heard Martha’s complaint.

Then how did Jesus reply to Martha?

In the most amazing and incredible way possible, nailing her main problem on the head!

“Martha, Martha,” – I love this! This would have been enough response for Martha but Jesus added:

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary,” Luke 10:41-42a

Won’t you say, “Really? Only one thing? I want to know that one thing!”

Jesus not only addressed Martha’s main problem and gave her a solution but He showed to Martha practically how that “one thing” works out in someone’s life: He just said, “Look at, Mary, the very person you are accusing and blaming. Do as she does!”


That is like a slab to her face, not that Jesus wanted to do that to Martha but she sets herself up for that.

So, what is today’s message?


Let’s make sure that we set aside time to be alone with God and His words every day. Let’s make this time our number one priority on our “Things-to-do” list.

Oh, my friends, we become foolish when we think we can do life without God. While we think we know, we don’t know a thing. While we think we are kind and loving, we become rude and nasty, being very far away from a name called “a Christian” because of our attitudes and words that come out of out us.

The Bible says,

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.” Psalm 127:1 NASB

And the Bible says,

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 NASB

Always remember, the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” cannot be found by working hard but by abiding in God’s word, by sitting at the feet of Christ who has the word of eternal life. ///