Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
Choosing The Good Part Of Life
When the Lord God created man and put him into the Garden of Eden, one of the first things he commanded Adam and Eve was to care for the garden. Work has always been a part of life even before sin made it more laborious than it had been. God created man to be an industrious creation learning the value of maintaining a home. Following the fall of man, the ground was cursed and Adam was told by the sweat of his brow he would labor to care for his family. Throughout the history of God’s dealing with man the Lord has required man to be an industrious creature condemning the nature of laziness and slothfulness. The Proverbs speak often of the sin of indolence. Refusing to work and care for the family is a grievous sin before the character of righteousness. The apostle Paul would later write that industry is expected by the Lord to care for the family and to help others. Clearly the admonition to work is expected by the Lord. It must also be understood that while the teachings of diligent industry are given by the Lord He does not suggest this becomes the all of man. When the spiritual growth of the child of God is diminished because of the mistaken idea that life is about work, work and more work; then a problem arises that can be very debilitating.
Mary and Martha were industrious women who were part of the company that helped care for Jesus during His arduous ministry. The Lord did not have a home to call His own or a place to reside. He depended on the care of others while He was about His Father’s work. Arriving at the home of Martha and Mary, Jesus was welcomed in and tended to as an honored guest in their home. Martha was concerned about making preparations for those who had come under her roof and there was much to be done. Cooking food, gathering things together needful for the guest in her home and being a hard-working servant of the Lord, Martha was busy. She noticed her sister was not helping her and this reflected on the hospitality of the home to those who were guest. She chided Mary to come and help but her sister remained at the feet of Jesus listening to Him share some story or teaching. Frustrated, Martha sought the admonition of the Lord to have her sister come and help make preparations. Jesus tempered the situation not so much as a rebuke but a reminder that while the things Martha was doing was important and valuable at the time Mary was learning things that would last an eternity. Martha was troubled about things that were temporary and Mary was finding the eternal truths of Jesus more appealing.
Luke does not tell us what happened after Jesus’ admonition to Martha. One can assume Martha would have heard the gentle answer of Jesus as an opportunity to put aside what she was doing and come listen to Him. The scriptures do not say. A great lesson is found in this story as Jesus used the frustration of Martha to remind the disciples that work is important and necessary and laziness is sinful but there are times when the most important thing a person can do is to sit at the feet of the Son of God. Mary needed to hear what Jesus said and she was attentive. Martha needed to hear what Jesus said but she thought her duties in the home precluded her involvement. At that time she should have been more aware of her need for Jesus rather than baking bread. Life is filled with many things that vie for our energy, time and interest and while these may be good in and of themselves to neglect the spiritual work of growing in Christ should never be lacking.
Housework is an important task that shows the industry of work in the home. Children should learn early to carry out chores on a daily basis and be industrious. Mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes, fixing the sink or repairing the fence are necessary to maintain a home and showing an example of labor as prescribed by the Lord. Working at a job is a vital part of the character for God’s children to provide for the home. More often than not the daily grind of secular work is an exhausting time of life. All of these things are necessary to the whole character of man. Martha being busy with much serving was not a wrong thing to do – it was the wrong time to do it. Jesus was in the home sharing the story of His Father and Mary understood the value of putting aside the burden of the home to spend time with Jesus. Martha forgot the most important lesson. The child of God must never let the command to work interfere with the command to grow. Time must be spent in listening to the voice of God and there must be an effort to carve out that time in the hectic pace of life. Neglecting the teaching of Jesus because of the concerns for serving misplace the loyalty of the heart to the Father. One thing is needed and that is the work of engaging in the eternal lessons to be learned from the word of God. Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus so she could learn the lessons from the Son of God she would take throughout her life. That is what mattered at that moment and she took hold of that time to spend with the Lord. Never lose the opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from him. Do not neglect the duties of the home or job as commanded by the Lord but seek the kingdom of God first.