Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:38-42, emphasis added)
And all the Marthas in the world squirm. Can we just admit how difficult this passage is for those of us God wired as Type A, get stuff done sisters? Jesus’ words sting a bit. It feels like a slap on the hand that’s feeding Him (and washing His dishes and plumping His cushions and refilling His cup). Meanwhile, Miss Lazy Butt gets a gold star for sitting around with zero productivity. Does this seem unfair to anyone besides me? Fine. I might be taking this a tad personally.
This story feels like home, but not in the “kick your feet up” kind of way; more in the “I just wiped down that table, so get your feet back on the floor” kind of way. It’s easy for me to bustle around, taking care of business and meeting needs. While numerous lifestyles contribute to a flurried, frenetic pace of constant activity, a heart in ministry can easily become “distracted with much serving,” plastering Jesus veneer over a fear of rest.
When I get to heaven, I’m going to hunt Martha down and have a long visit over tea with her (and we’ll laugh as we wash the dishes together afterward). I get this girl. She had responsibilities, goals, and a checklist that was probably color-coded and alphabetized. All she wanted was a little help. I think that’s where she got into trouble.
All she wanted. Was a little help.
All her sister wanted, on the other hand, was sitting right there in the living room with smiling eyes and open arms, willing to teach her—a woman!—the same as He taught the disciples with beards. (Sitting at a teacher’s feet was a very honored position, and Jesus swatting away the scandal of a female occupying that sacred space is too much glory for me to comprehend.) Help was Martha’s one thing. Relationship was Mary’s one thing.
The Savior’s words to this exhausted soul drip compassion. He’s not harsh or mean. Jesus loves this family dearly, checklist Martha included. You and me included. He still loves His girls who have a hard time putting down the good work we’re distracted by and scooting in close enough to see those pierced feet. The work will still be there when we get back up. He has called us to the work, after all—just not in exchange for relationship. We’re offered an open invitation to let our serving Him stop distracting us from knowing Him.
What could it look like to pause? To pick up our cross (that looks suspiciously like rest) and lay down our need to appear capable, competent, and in control? To throw that stupid star chart we so painstakingly devised however long ago out of the window and just be with the One who loves us? Not so that we can turn Him into another item on a daily to-do list (Time with Jesus? Done. Moving on.) or feel good about the fact that we’re taking care of ourselves well (Physical health? Check. Emotional health? Check. Spiritual health? Double check.) but so that we can let our hearts come home to Him. To hear the song He loves to sing over us. To take our place in the kingdom as precious daughters, not slaves with unlimited obligation.
This is the good portion, which will not be taken away. And it’s still sitting right there in the living room with smiling eyes and open arms. How might you choose this one thing?