“As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed Him and made Him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word He said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them, ‘Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend a hand.’

“The Master said, ‘Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary had chosen it – it’s the main course and won’t be taken from her.'” Luke 10.38-42.

How many sermons have you heard on this story!? Martha, the busy one; Mary, the “spiritual” one, or something like that!

But let’s look at it from a slightly different perspective. Martha was working hard to prepare a meal for her guests – highly commendable because they had to eat. Mary was sitting in the living room among the men, listening to Jesus – also highly commendable because she was fascinated and enthralled by this man. Which of them was in the wrong, Martha because she should also have been listening to Jesus, or Mary because she should have been helping Martha prepare the meal?

We are looking at two different people with two different perspectives, values and gifts. Martha was obviously a task-orientated person while Mary was more contemplative and less practically-minded. Did Jesus rebuke Martha for working in the kitchen instead of being with Him? Did He commend Mary for choosing to abandon her sister to sit and listen to Him? It almost sounds like it, doesn’t it? But it would be out of character with Jesus to play one person against another.

I want to suggest that there was something deeper than that. Had I been Martha, and had I thought that Jesus was putting me down for wanting to do my best for Him, I would have been upset and offended with Him. But that was not His intention.

Obviously Martha derived her pleasure from serving. It was her spiritual gift, if you like. But she was fed up with Mary for not doing with her what brought her satisfaction. She wanted Mary to be like her and to do what she did. Had Martha done her work in the kitchen with as much joy as Mary had by listening to Jesus, she would have been worshipping just as much as Mary was.

Was Jesus saying that what Martha was doing was less important than what Mary was doing? It almost seems like it but that would contradict what Scripture teaches. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV). That’s pretty ordinary, isn’t it? What about this one? “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for human masters.” Colossians 3:23 (NIV).

It was not what Martha was doing that was wrong; it was her attitude that spoiled what she was doing. We also struggle with this problem – we either become resentful of people when they don’t help us with what we are doing “for the Lord” or we want to do what we are not gifted to do because there’s more limelight and more accolades that accompany someone else’s gift.

Was Jesus saying that Mary had the right attitude and therefore she gained the most benefit by doing what she was fitted to do? You see, it’s all about relationships and preserving unity. Martha could have, with a generous heart, allowed Mary the freedom to be with Jesus without resentment and gained as much blessing in her serving as Mary did in her listening.

There are three values that we, as children of God in the family of God must make priorities if we are to represent God’s kingdom to a fallen world; we must protect love, preserve unity and promote contentment, at all costs and all the time.

It’s what Jesus did. Shouldn’t we?

Categories: Bible Study Tags: , ,

Luella Campbell

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