Luke 10:38-42 tells us about Jesus visiting His two friends Martha and Mary, who were sisters to Lazarus whom He raised from the dead. Martha welcoms Jesus into her home and sets about the task of preparing a meal for her guest. Her sister sits at the Lord’s feet listening to Him speak. This was obviously vexing to Martha who asks Jesus about that – don’t you think its right to tell my sister to help me? You can all see how busy I am here. Well, Jesus has a different response – in essence He tells Martha that Mary has made the wiser choice of the two.
For the most part, this passage is annoying because the natural tendency is to side with Martha. She is after all preparing a meal for her guests, setting about the business we all would be involved with in the same situation. I believe this to be a very important historical event because it relates to our day-to-day preoccupations. We easily get irritated by those who chase after what we would consider frivolous things – listening, reading and speaking about things that do not physically advance their lives. Instead of all that Bible studying, why don’t you read a business magazine that will give you practical information you can use now?One might say to me. I too was once there – thinking that those who engaged in spiritual advancement had way too much time on their hands.
Let’s look at Jesus’ response to Martha in verse 41. The first thing He tells her is a diagnosis of her condition and the reasons for it. This simple one line can be applied to us almost daily. We, like Martha, are “worried and distracted by many things;” yet we blankly stare at those words because our immediate question is, “well, how do you figure I should stop? Or better yet, who will do these things I “worry” about if I stop?” Jesus in his second line (verse 42) provides the remedy by advising Martha on the need to cut things down, and finally, make the wise decision.
I want to speak on the first part of His second sentence, “…But one thing is needful.” This literally is Jesus informing Martha that her preparations are too much – she does not have to go to all the ends of the earth to accommodate her guest. This is something we too can learn about us. Many of our problems are self-created, because we think that simplicity is not enough, and so we over-extend ourselves. By preparing less, Martha would have had the opportunity to sit with Mary and listen to Jesus as well. By choosing our concerns, we reduce the amount of stress in our lives.
Secondly, Jesus was pointing out the truth about the dangers of our preoccupations in this actual event. Mary chose to listen to Christ over what is obvious to you and me in this situation, so that where we would harshly judge her decision, Jesus blessed it by affirming its eternal consequences. “…Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Martha’s preparations would result in a meal that could only be eaten in a moment in time. Mary’s preparation involved food that would carry her for a lifetime.
Now we all have work we must wake up for and families amongst other duties we must care for. It is in doing our best to put food on the table that we become preoccupied and distracted from feeding our souls. This biblical story is a wonderful testament to this dilemma, and Jesus shows us His understanding of our situations by employing His friends’ experience for our good. In these verses, He is telling us to cut out the drama, and pay attention to Him, for He is the wisest choice we could ever make. Are you up for that challenge?