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The Story of Two Sisters

Taking time to understand each other

by Alan M. Barker (revised, originally published in 2014)

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To consider that we are all different and we all have a place in school and in our families.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need to be familiar with the Bible story of Mary and Martha, which is presented in the ‘Assembly’, Step 2.

    You may wish to act out the story by using four parts: Martha, Mary, Jesus and a narrator. These parts could be shared between other adults or children.


  1. Invite the children to reflect quietly on when they last argued with a brother, sister, cousin or friend. Observe that, from time to time, disagreements happen. Not everyone is the same. Sometimes, an argument arises over a task that needs to be done.

  2. Introduce the Bible story below, which is about two sisters. They shared the same home (with their brother, Lazarus), but they had very different personalities.

    Invite the children to listen carefully. Which of the sisters are they most like?

    The Two Sisters

    Martha loved to keep busy.                      Mary loved to think.
    Martha could be very impatient.               Mary was very calm.
    Martha loved cooking.                              Mary didn’t!

    So, when Martha and Mary invited Jesus to their home, this is what happened.

    Martha laid the table.                               Mary sat on the floor.
    Martha watched the oven.                        Mary listened to Jesus.
    Martha cooked the dinner.                       Mary didn’t!
    Martha was hot in the kitchen.                 Mary stayed in the cool.
    A pot boiled over.                                    Mary didn’t realize.

    Finally, Martha’s anger boiled over too!
    ‘Mary,’ she complained, ‘what kind of sister are you? Jesus, tell her to come and help me!’
    ‘Martha,’ Jesus replied, ‘I know you’re upset, but Mary is enjoying a special time that she’ll always remember.’
    So, Martha returned to her cooking and Mary carried on listening.

  3. Allow the children to respond to the story by asking the following questions and listening to the children’s responses.

    - What advice would the children offer to Martha and Mary?
    - Did Mary eventually help Martha to serve her special meal and to clear up afterwards?
    - Was Martha’s plea for help ignored?

Time for reflection

Observe that this story reflects the frustration that we feel when people don’t behave how we want or don’t do what we feel they should do. Explain that strong friendships give others the freedom to be themselves. However, such friendships also mean being sensitive to one another’s feelings and being ready to help. As Martha and Mary discovered, this can be a difficult balance to strike. Jesus encouraged the two sisters to understand each other’s different gifts and needs.

Invite the children to reflect on how both helping and listening is important to them at home and in school.

Encourage the children to look for ways in which they can listen and be a good friend today.

Dear God,
Sometimes, we get cross with our sisters, brothers, cousins and friends.
We’re sorry for the times when we lose our tempers.
Help us to think about the feelings of others, give one another space and offer help when we can.
Help us always to consider how our actions might affect other people.


‘You’ve got a friend in me’ from the film Toy Story 4, available at: (2.08 minutes long)

Publication date: April 2022   (Vol.24 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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