Scripture: Luke 10:38-42
Key verses: (41-42) “But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Reflection: The story of Mary and Martha comes at the end of a series of stories about the rejection and acceptance of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus is received warmly by two sisters who offer him hospitality in their home. We often hear references to Mary and Martha that distort the underlying message of this passage. We have labeled both Martha and Mary with different temperament types. Martha is cast as a Type A who works hard and doesn’t know when to stop and Mary is cast as a Type B who takes a laid-back approach to life. Unfortunately, these labels get in the way of the point of this story. Because we don’t understand the role of hospitality in the Bible we apply modern temperament types to Mary and Martha.
To the Middle Eastern culture the lack of hospitality Martha shows would be clearly understood. She frets over the preparations for dinner at the expense of her guest. Of course, there were things to do in preparation for the meal. However, when the tasks that needed to be accomplished got in the way of being with a guest hospitality was broken. On the other hand, Mary chose to focus on her guest (Jesus).
The Greek word Luke uses for Martha’s worry and distraction is best translated as anxious and troubled. This word is used elsewhere to mean being caught up in the entanglements of life in the world. Martha, in her preoccupation with dinner and her resentment toward her sister, ends up drawing Jesus into a family fight over who does what.
While Martha’s work was important, it would cease. Mary’s receptivity to Jesus’ teaching, however, was something that could not be taken away from her.
Most of us have an endless list of things to do, but if spending time with Jesus, receiving him as a guest into our lives, and listening to his teachings aren’t a priority, where does that leave us?
This Stewardship season we have been invited to reflect on Paul’s words from the letter to the Romans: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” (v.2) This kind of renewal invites us to receive Jesus as a guest in our lives. When we do we will discover the better part which cannot not be taken away.
Prayer: Gracious God, help us to cultivate a deep and sustaining relationship with you and not be distracted by the busyness of our lives. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].