A Busybody in the Bible

Have you ever met a busybody, someone who is so distracted by what others are doing that they lose sight of the bigger picture? They also are inclined to meddle where they don’t belong. Maybe you find in yourself some busybody tendencies?

Busybodies work hard and find value in accomplishments. They do their best to work in excellence. The downside is they feel the need to keep things “fair” and want to make sure other people are held to a standard they have arbitrarily set. Busybodies have an attitude of self-righteousness and pride because they deem their way is the right way and anything deviating from that needs to be addressed immediately.

When I think about a busybody in the Bible, I think about my girl, Martha. The end of Luke 10 talks about how she welcomed Jesus into her home and started doing what she thought needed to be done to host a gathering. It says Martha was “distracted with much serving” (Luke 10:40).  At face value, that doesn’t sound like a bad thing. I mean, doesn’t it make sense if Jesus was in your house, you would want Him to be as comfortable as possible? But this is where the opportunity for deception comes in. We can get caught up in the idea that just because we are doing a “good thing” it’s what God wants us to do. This is often not the case.

Hospitality was an important part of Martha’s culture and how one welcomed guests spoke volumes. Martha’s focus was on making a good impression on her guest of honor based on the cultural norms. This is in stark contrast to her sister, Mary, who was at the feet of Jesus soaking up every word He had to say. Martha was on her feet, actively getting things ready for Jesus while Mary was sitting at His feet, actively listening to His teachings. 

In many ways, I can relate to Martha because she was doing her best to be a good host. She wanted to put her best foot forward so Jesus would have a great experience in her home. I would have done the same thing. I would have been focused on doing all the things for Jesus, on making sure He was sitting comfortably, the temperature of the room was to his liking, and his cup was topped off. Therein lies the problem. The focus would have been on the doing instead of the being. Since the garden of Eden, God’s plan has always been to be with us. That is where the priority belongs, first in the being then in the doing. When we get that order mixed up, we get stuck in a rut of striving and toil and comparison.

Notice how Martha responded when Mary wasn’t doing what Martha thought she should be doing. When we get into busybody mode, we hold everyone else to our standards and then get upset when they don’t live up to them. We feel as if somehow we have been slighted and it’s unfair.

Martha said to Jesus in verse 40, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Martha had some nerve asking Jesus if He cared, and yet how many times do we respond this way when things aren’t going how we think they should? “Lord, don’t you care that my husband isn’t spending time with me?” “Lord, don’t you care that my boss is treating me poorly?” “Lord, don’t you care that I’m not able to use the gifts You gave me in church?”

Jesus, in His grace and kindness and patience, said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” What’s cool about His response was that the words anxious and troubled in the original language mean “divided into parts” and “noisy” respectively. Essentially, He was saying, “My dear Martha, you have too many things on your mind and it’s causing confusion. Now it’s time to be single-minded and reprioritize what’s important to Me.” When we listen, we are quiet. When we listen, we are focused. When we listen, we’re not thinking about anything else. We are fully present in the moment. That’s the state He wanted Martha to be in. 

Not only did Jesus not rebuke Mary, He said what Mary was doing was necessary. It was necessary for her to be at the feet of Jesus. It was necessary for her to hear the words Jesus wanted to share. Being with Jesus is necessary. Once we get comfortable with sitting at Jesus’ feet, then we are in the position for Him to tell us what to do. It’s the properly ordered priority of being then doing.

One difference between our culture and Jewish culture is instead of the Israelites’ focus on hospitality for others, we focus on hustling for ourselves. We see manicured lawns, clean homes, well-behaved kids, and wonderful marriages, and it goes beyond inspiration to imitation. Social media can foster these ideas and paint certain pictures so we feel like we are missing out or are less than. Once that fine line into replication is crossed, we do all we can to achieve something that may not even be attainable for us based on our season of life or budget.

This is where we can learn from both Martha and Mary. What Martha was doing was not bad. It was just ill-timed. It was not of utmost importance. In the presence of Jesus, the most important thing is to be with Him. In His presence, all cultural expectations go out the window. Mary was able to identify what was necessary in that moment. I pray we can get to the place where we can recognize what is needed in the moment and not just stick to our busybody agenda.

In the midst of today’s expectations and norms, how do you fight the desire to strive? Do you consider yourself a busybody at times? Who do you identify with in this story, Martha or Mary?

photo of Athena Avellanet

Athena Avellanet is a devoted wife and mother of four beautiful children. She is passionate about empowering women to walk closely with God and find their true identity in Him. Through her insightful teaching and authentic sharing of personal experiences, Athena encourages women to be who God created them to be right where they are, from the kitchen to the corporate office. Whether it’s through uplifting posts, speaking engagements, or face-to-face conversations, Athena’s genuine desire is to embolden women to embrace their unique journeys and find rest in God’s unwavering presence.