It’s hard for us to read the story of Mary and Martha without finding fault with Martha. That’s been the traditional Christian interpretation for many years. But we’re not fair toward Martha by finding fault with her – any more than Martha was fair with Mary when she complained about doing all the work.
Martha did exactly what was expected of a host or hostess in the ancient world. She welcomed strangers into her home as though they were family. With a group of visitors (remember, Jesus didn’t travel alone), there is much to be done. And Martha is filling that role. MEANWHILE, her sister Mary likes to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his teaching. From Martha’s point of view, Mary should be sharing the prescribed hospitality workload …. and she wants Jesus to intervene.
In Eugene Peterson’s The Message, Jesus says: “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it – it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”
Stephanie Frey writes that “thinking of God’s word as the ‘main course’ in the feast of life doesn’t give that immediate sense that listening is better than doing. Rather, it places these activities in balance. Jesus is the host … and he spreads the Word like a banquet to nourish and strengthen us. The Word has, within it, commands both to sit and listen, and to go and do. We ‘sit on our salvation,’ as the sonnet has it, but then scatter into the world and work of daily life.”
Treasure the gift of rest. Your soul will thank you.
See you in person or online this Sunday!