Be or Do
Of all the famous siblings one finds in the Bible as far as I can tell there are only two sisters who make that list Martha and Mary. These two sisters seem to be very important to Jesus. They first show up in Luke 10 where Martha opens her home to him. Then in John 11 where Jesus raises their brother Lazarus from the dead. Mary may show up again but since there are so many Marys in the Gospels and Romans it is hard to tell if it is her or another Mary.
When we first meet these sisters when Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem (Luke 10.38 – 42). He has only recently revealed to his disciples that he is going there to be put to death. They arrive in Bethany where Martha has opened her home to Jesus and his disciples. She is so busy with all that has to be done Luke tells us she is “distracted” with all the preparations (Luke 10.40). On the other hand Mary is quietly sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to everything he has to say (Luke 10.39).
Martha knows this and goes to Jesus and says “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10.40) She is expecting a positive answer instead Jesus has a gentle rebuke. “Martha, Martha 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 take away from her.” (Luke 10.41 - .42) The story ends there.
There are many lessons that have been taken from this story. Some say that it is better to be like Mary and just listen to Jesus’ teachings and not get distracted by doing a lot of things. Some have said that this is and example of how worldly concerns can crowd out spiritual concerns. They try to make a big point or teaching from a small thing.
Here is one thing I think Jesus is saying. Martha is making an offering to the Lord Jesus Christ. She is offering her home and hospitality. Her sister is also making an offering to the Lord. She is offering her mind and heart as open vessels to be taught. Both of these are worthy offerings and the Lord wants both services and devotion. Where Martha goes wrong is that she is worrying not about her offering but about her sister. She feels that the Lord doesn’t care that she is working hard to make things right while her sister is just sitting there doing nothing. At that time one thing needed be done and that was for Mary and Martha to sit at his feet and learn. At another time Mary should have been helping but not at that time.
It is a timing issue. We need to have a better since of timing. We need to know when it is time to “doing” or to be serving and when it is time to be “being” or spending time in devotion. Martha was doing, she was serving, when it was a time of devotion a time to just be! This is a challenge. We live in a world that doesn’t value taking time to stop. We live in a society that values “doers” more than “be-ers.” The challenge is to know when to be and when to do. The only way to know is to listen to the LORD just like he told Martha He will also let us know as well.