“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Mary and Martha are sisters. They trust in Jesus as their Savior and know him personally. They are his friends. One day, Jesus arrives in their home. Mary settles down to listen to Jesus speak. Martha, however, has hospitality on her mind.
Let’s stop, for a moment, to appreciate the pressure Martha is feeling. In our casual culture, you and I may handle some company simply by ordering in a pizza. That is not what Martha faces. In the culture of the 1st Century, hospitality is a sober business. When you open your home to guests, you do all you can to treat them well. Failing to do so is an insult to them and a disgrace to you.
And so here is Martha, laboring to show Jesus the best hospitality she can. And what is her sister doing to help? Nothing. She just sits there, listening to Jesus. Perhaps more than a few of us, therefore, can sympathize with Martha when she finally lets off some steam and asks Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Then comes Jesus’ affectionate reply, but a reply packed with meaning.
Does Jesus ever say that Martha is doing a bad thing? Of course not. Showing hospitality is a beautiful fruit of faith. In fact, other parts of the Bible praise it. In this moment, however, Jesus is speaking to what is better.
In the current lifestyle of our society, busyness is a badge of honor. When that busyness, however, even in service to God—when that busyness robs me of the opportunity for the Lord to serve me in his Word, then I’ve lost my way. Then I need to repent of my busyness.
But that’s why Jesus came. He came to wash away my sins of busyness. He came to spend his time perfectly on my behalf. In him, all is well. In him, I can begin again.
Lord Jesus, when I lose my way, grant me a repentant heart. Forgive my busyness. Refresh me to choose what is better. Amen.