I get it. I think I've done a sermon or two on the story. Relationship is more important than task. Time with Jesus is the most important thing we can invest in.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42, NIV).
When I was young, I thought that Martha got the shaft. Honestly, I still do. After all Jesus shows up at her house with at least twelve other men (the passage just says "and His disciples." We don't know if it's just the twelve. The beginning of chapter 10 starts out with Jesus sending out 72 of them. It could be men and women). It seems like it was possibly and unexpected, unplanned visit: Jesus and the disciples show up in town, Martha offers the hospitality of her home.
And Martha knows that hospitality means having the house orderly, preparing food for everyone, possibly having a place for everyone to sleep. There was a lot of work to do. After all, she couldn't just let everyone go hungry.
And then there's Mary. Slacking off, just sitting there at Jesus' feet when clearly things need to get done in order for all these people to be comfortable in their home. If Martha joined her, nothing would get done.
So I don't like it that Jesus just blows of Martha's need for help from Mary. It's a valid request. It's a fair request.
So maybe it just shows that I still struggle with relationships--especially with an unseen and invisible God. Maybe it's my task vs. relationship part of my personality. Maybe it's because I still struggle to find that balance in life sometimes between work and relationship and faith and everything else.
But when I look at it closer, I'm not sure that Jesus is so concerned about Martha's activity. The trouble isn't that she's too busy or working too much. "You are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is necessary" (CEV). Other versions say "anxious and troubled" instead of worried and upset. The issue is her heart.
And the issue is knowing what is most important in life. As Steven Covey once said, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." I remember hearing that quote from people at Covenant Bible College, capitalizing the second Main Thing.
In the story of the Good Samaritan last week the lawyer who was testing Jesus knew that the most important commandment is to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. The main thing.
I want to know the rest of the story--if Martha sits with Jesus, and if so, how the food and other preparations get finished. I think that Martha comes to understand who Jesus is better. We know that when Lazarus dies, Martha is the one who says that Lazarus wouldn't have died if Jesus was there. She comes to understand that Jesus has authority.
But I guess the more important thing is not what happens in the Mary and Martha story next, it's what happens with me. Will I choose the one important thing? Will I sit at Jesus' feet instead of letting my heart get worried and upset?
I'd like to say yes.
Day by day (as we are encouraged from Godspell) I hope to make St. Richard of Chichester's prayer my own:
May I know Thee more clearly, Love Thee more dearly, Follow Thee more nearly.