Luke 10:38-42 – 38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
You may have read the Biblical scenario of the death of Lazarus.
The scene: Jesus and His company of men arrive at Martha, Mary, and Lazarus’ home in Bethany. In Luke 10:38, a woman named Martha is mentioned as the owner of this home. She panicked and became cumbersome with hosting the men. Imagine those present in the room hearing the sighs of Martha, and the clanging of the pots and dishes as she grew angrier by the moment. Not Mary; she was relaxed and sat at Jesus’ feet. She did not bother with Martha’s clamoring. She was only interested in the gracious words spoken by Jesus. Mary had eyes only for the One who had forgiven her, who loved her, and whom she loved. In Martha’s eyes, she may have felt that working in the kitchen was the “better thing”.
I do believe the text is not suggesting that Martha was wrong in serving; instead, her attitude and disposition in which she was serving was clearly wrong. Martha’s anger at Mary’s lackadaisical stance may have been a cultural one. In that day and time in Eastern culture, the men would sit and talk (in this case theology) while the women took care of the domestic chores. Perhaps, for Mary to have been sitting “idle,” and not helping in the kitchen was unusual. It also did not help Martha’s attitude that Jesus or the other men did not tell Mary to help her. This would further explain her outburst of anger toward Jesus.
Martha’s external behavior at first appeared to be that of a servant heart. However, the moment she stopped listening to Christ and made something other than Him the focus of her attention, her perspective became very self-centered. At that point, even her service to Christ became tainted with self-absorption and an attitude of sinful pride. This made her susceptible to other kinds of evil, such as anger, resentment, jealousy, a critical spirit, being judgmental, and meanness. All of which flared up in a matter of minutes.
Mary, in contrast, chose the genuine “better thing,” which mattered the most, and would not be taken away from her. She was so consumed with thoughts of Christ that she became completely oblivious to everything else. She sat at His feet and listened to Him intently, absorbing His every word. Mary had a calm, kind, loving, and caring spirit. She was by no means lazy. She simply understood and valued the precious moment to sit at Jesus’ feet. The Son, God Himself was a guest in her home! What an awesome opportunity.
What would you do if Jesus came to your home? Would you be busy trying to serve Him a meal or would you immediately sit at His feet? Serving would seem the ideal thing to do. If I were in Martha’s sandals, I would likely be guilty of being “busy,” and trying to impress Jesus by serving. To the contrary, like Mary, we should make the very best of that moment by listening and worshiping in Jesus’ presence. It’s the one right place and precise moment for us to focus our attention. We must be discerning and seize the moment. In other words, “carpe diem” or “pluck the day [as it is ripe]”—that is, enjoy the moment. I love the interpretation of Isaiah 55:8-9 in the Message Bible. It construes, “The way you work isn’t the way I work.” God’s Decree. For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Are you busy with “stuff,” the cares of this world’s system, and ways of doing things? Are you self-absorbed, stressed out or burnt out? Picture a busy fish market, the busy customers, the anxious sale merchants, the hobnobbing, the gossiping, and the gesturing of the day. In this setting there is only unrest and stress.
This week, forget about the cares of this world, all the negativity and “stuff” that is draining you, worries, heavy burdens, bills, and especially all the daunting undone tasks that is before you. Like Mary, choose the “better thing” to sit at Jesus’ feet. Together, let us go deeper, wider, yet still in His God’s presence.
Under His Wings,
Minister Gail Faulkner