21st Century Marthas
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed them 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.”
Mary and Martha is a favorite story of many, especially with those of us who have neither the energy nor the organizational ability to operate at Martha-level. And Jesus’ gentle rebuke seems to be encouragement to simplify our life and center it on Him.
But is that all the passage is telling us? Is “the good portion” a call to simplicity? Is that what “will not be taken away?”
By definition “that which will not be taken” [away] is what is eternal, those things that can never perish, spoil or fade kept in heaven. (1 Peter 1:4) What is eternal? According to Scripture, the two things of this earth that will last for all eternity are the Word of God and the souls of men.
Martha was a good woman and her service originated from the best of motives. But the meal would be eaten, the dishes taken away and the scraps fed to the animals, whether it was a banquet or a bowl of soup. She lost an opportunity to sit at the Master’s feet and feed her immortal soul on His eternal truth.
We have become an outward society—a Martha society—and so much of our schedule is devoted to activities, to going and doing.
In this regard, I am especially concerned with the young people of our busy generation who will be the inheritors and shapers of the future. Even if they are exposed to the Bible’s teaching, it cannot become theirs unless and until they marinate their life experiences in its truth. But how can this be done? What must we add to our busy schedule to make it happen?
The best instructions I know on this were written a very long time ago by a culture-shaper named Moses who was also seeking to teach his people how to live above society’s pressures and for eternal things.
… teach them [God’s ways] to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the way, when you lie down and when you get up.