Three Considerations for Biblical Character Study

As we grow in our relationship with God, we naturally begin to look at His Word with a more mature lens. We move beyond the “Bible story” mentality of Sunday school and the “Scripture as motto” reading of the Bible in order to see the stories for what they truly are—records of real people in real situations, some of whom made good choices and some of whom made bad choices. God preserved these stories about these people because there was something in these situations from which we could learn.

As an Apostolic counselor I often recommend that clients look more carefully at the people in the Bible. Any concern or crisis of life can be found between the pages of that living Book. Learning more about the people in those stories and the choices they made helps us in several ways.

Three considerations for biblical character study are:

  1. We are not the only ones to face a trial. Others have gone before us and made it through to the other side. Ecclesiastes 1:9 confirms, “That which has been is what will be, and that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” Regardless of what life throws our way, we have a strength and power from God that will help us through.
  2. Understanding the actions of the people in the Bible through the lens of God’s Word can help us to make good choices and not to repeat the mistakes of others. It allows us to see how God has directed others through similar situations.
  3. Through the vastness of time and the events in the Bible there is always someone to whom we can relate on a personal level. Perhaps we sympathize with mistakes made or cringe as we see our own choices and personalities expressed. Whatever our response, it is comforting to know that although we think we may be unique, we are not alone.

Relating to Martha

This was my frame of mind several years ago when I met Martha. Although I had heard and read the stories of this little family in Bethany all my life, I had never really stopped to see them as individuals. In fact, when I heard the name Martha, it was always connected with her sister as in “Mary and Martha.” This time as I read the short, almost dismissible interaction between Jesus and Martha in Luke 10, I was suddenly struck by the revelation that I was Martha! In an instant, I could empathize with how she felt working so hard to show her love and devotion to Jesus by making His stay comfortable. I knew her frustration with a sister who refused to help and a room full of men who didn’t seem to notice. In that moment I knew Martha. I began to relate to her in a new way. I intensely felt there was more to this woman than met the eye.

In this way, Martha’s life reflects on who I am and who I should be in my walk with Jesus in an intimate and profound way that informs my attitude and checks my spirit. Click To Tweet

The more I read about Martha in Luke and John, the more I saw character, strength, courage, fortitude, intelligence, and (most important) faith. Martha is the owner of the home, which tells me that she was a woman of some means and was the manager of the household. She was a woman of action who ran to meet Jesus as He journeyed to their home after the death of Lazarus, rather than waiting for Him to arrive.

Martha’s story began with serving.

She was a woman of complete confidence in and full awareness of who Jesus was, but she was not afraid to state her feelings. It is clear throughout her interactions that Martha was the caregiver. Her logic and rationality appeared to war with her faith. Although she had affirmed that she knew Jesus to be the Messiah and to have all power, she simply could not help but point out the fact that her brother’s body would smell after having been in the tomb for four days.

Martha’s story began with serving. She was working hard to show her respect and love for Jesus. She demonstrated great faith by calling on Jesus when her brother became ill. Even when it appeared that Jesus arrived too late to help, Martha still acknowledged that He was Christ. Following the miracle of her brother being resurrected, we find Martha serving Jesus and His followers, including Lazarus, once again. However, this time, we see a different Martha. Although she was still doing what she knew best and loving Christ through service, we do not see her questioning Mary’s devotion or the expense of the oil that she used to anoint the feet of Jesus.

We do not see her asking for help or attempting to control the situation. Rather we see a woman using her means and her gifts to honor her Lord. I am the Martha at the beginning of this story, but I want to be the Martha at the end of the story. In this way, Martha’s life reflects on who I am and who I should be in my walk with Jesus in an intimate and profound way that informs my attitude and checks my spirit.

(A version of this article was published in Pentecostal Life.

Jennifer McCurrach | Human Services Program Director | Urshan College

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