We’ve all heard some pretty convictions on the story found in Luke 10:38-42 about Jesus visiting the home of His friends Martha and Mary. Typically, we readily identify with Martha, who sprang into action to make preparations for Jesus and His group. Her eager service turned to stress, then downgraded to a demanding spirit toward others. As conviction sets in, we are challenged to aspire to the model of Mary, who sat stress-free at the feet of Jesus, listening to His word. Clearly, she made the best decision.
While there are many extrapolated explanations and challenging applications that are drawn from this account, let’s take another focused look at the real issues of the scene.
An Issue of Priority, Not Personality
Often we are told that a key factor in the contrasting responses of the sisters to the presence of Jesus in their home was their personality differences. I’ve spun it this way and have heard others do the same. Admittedly, this is just speculation, as the text never refers to their personality types. It might make sense to cast Martha as a “Type-A” driven leader and Mary as a “Type-B” low-key adaptable sibling. Yes, Martha was older, perhaps feeling more responsible. Maybe she owned the home so felt compelled to take charge. We are not sure.
What we do know is they operated from different grids of priorities. Martha felt it was more important to serve Jesus in the moment. Mary wanted to seek Jesus. Martha wanted to do something for Him. Mary wanted to learn something from Him.
The danger in painting this picture as a “personality difference” is that aggressive, task-oriented people somehow justify their neglect of their relationship with Jesus based on their emotional make-up. This may make us feel better but dodges the real issue. Simply put, we all need to make time with Jesus a clear priority and then live accordingly, regardless of our personality traits.
A Matter of Choice, Not Convenience
Sometimes we may think that it was easy for Mary to sit at Jesus’ feet, taking on the real posture and heart of a disciple, simply because it seemed convenient. After all, Martha was handling the arrangements, so why not? Yet, Jesus described the real issue in this way: “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part.” Her clear sense of the right priorities led her to a choice. We all know that life is always about choices. We are responsible for our choices and must remember that much is at stake with each responsible decision. We all can choose, like Mary.
Photo by Caleb Eckeroth
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