Biblical People

Biblical People: Mary (3), Martha and Lazarus’s Sister

Mary is the sister of Martha and Lazarus. The Bible includes two stories about her that cause me to label her as irresponsible. Jesus, however, has a different perspective.

In the first story, Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, taking in all he says and basking in his presence while her sister, Martha, toils in the kitchen. Martha complains about Mary’s laziness, but Jesus puts Martha in her place, and he affirms Mary for making the better choice.

In the second story, Mary uses some expensive perfume, which she pours on Jesus’s feet and wipes them with her hair, to show her love to him and symbolically prepare him for burial. 

Judas criticizes her wasteful ways. He claims the perfume is worth one year’s salary. Instead of pouring it on Jesus, a better use would have been to sell it and use the proceeds to help the poor. But Jesus rebuffs Judas, saying Mary did the right thing with her perfume, the thing she was meant to do.

Mary first faces criticism for being lazy and later for being wasteful. But Jesus commends both her choices.

Do we ever judge others from a human standpoint and completely miss God’s perspective?

[Discover more about Mary in Luke 10:38–42 and John 12:2–7. See “The Women Who Anoint Jesus.”]

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at