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)
The Word Is The Good Part
There are many things in life that are necessary. Providing food and clothing is as old as time itself. From the time Adam was expelled from the garden life has been about toil, labor, and work. Nations were built on the industry of its citizens. Families survived because of the need to survive. God made provisions in His message to remind humanity of the honor of work. In the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, the wise man exhorts his readers to consider the ant who without a prince or governor or ruler to make them work, labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter. Jesus taught his disciples the honor of work and the early church exhorted Christians to be an example of industry with admonitions to the church at Thessalonica to mark those who refused to work. Being busy about the day to day affairs of life is a godly profession to follow.
On the occasion, Jesus visits with his dear friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, many things needed to be done to make ready a great meal for their guests. Martha was scurrying around the home making preparations for the meal. No doubt she wanted everything to be fully ready so that Jesus could be refreshed and revived after another arduous day in His ministry. Martha was a wonderful example of industry. She was not a lazy person. There was the clattering of utensils and dishes and arranging and preparing throughout the house as Martha anxiously worked to prepare. All the while Martha was working; her sister Mary was not moving a finger. She was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to Him talk. This was not the place for a woman to be sitting with the men listening to the Teacher. Her role was to be busy in the background making preparations as Martha was doing.
Martha was frustrated at the lack of help her sister was giving and she complained to the Lord. It did not seem fair with so much to do that Mary was neglecting her duties. Martha had a lot of things to do and Mary was not so much as lifting a finger to help. Mary needed to get up and help Martha so that everything could be ready for a meal. Jesus did not rebuke Martha but gently reminded her that while the affairs of a busy household were important and commendable before God, there were times that something different was more important. Preparing a meal was a wonderful example of industry but listening to the word of God was more needed at the time. Jesus knew His time on earth was short and while He tried to exhort His disciples to redeem the time they did not understand how short time was. Mary had chosen the better thing for the moment. A meal could wait. Learning about God could not. Being a hospitable host was a sign of great honor but the meal would pass and the house would be cleaned again as the day came to a close. What Mary received that day would never end.
Luke does not tell how the story came out. Did Martha stop working and sit and listen to Jesus? Did the Lord interrupt His time and allow Martha to finish the meal and then continue teaching? The scriptures do not reveal the rest of the story. What is revealed in this story is the nature of the word and how important the divine is above the carnal. Everything in this life will fade and pass away but those things that are eternal will not. There is great value in the knowledge of the world and the mind is strengthened with the wisdom of study. Jesus tells Martha that Mary had found something better than the passing activities of life. The word of God will never fade away. Sitting at the feet of Jesus will always enrich the soul. Mary needed to hear what Jesus was saying and so did Martha. What Martha was doing was good but what Mary was doing was better. Martha’s work would fade away. Mary’s love for the word of God would not be taken away.
The lesson from Martha and Mary is to know how God wants the home to be a place of diligence with busy souls engaged with much service. However, if it becomes a distraction from the word of God it becomes too busy. Every person needs quality time with quantity effort to spend in the word of God. The home will fade away in the dust of time. God’s word will never be taken away from hearts eager to hear the word. Nothing can compare to time spent in the meditation of the word of God. Work as God desires in the home but work harder to clean the hearth of the soul from the distractions of the world to know the will of the Lord. Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ and this will not be taken away.