"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
In the case of Mary and Martha, Mary certainly "got it." She chose what was "better."
What is so genius about the story of these two sisters is how simply it is told in Luke 10. There's really no guessing at all as to what Jesus means in his assessment of the situation. But part of this lesson really escaped me until I was reading it again recently in a Bible study.
Jesus was on the road and stopped in Bethany, which was just east of Jerusalem. It was also his last week on earth—and I think that's important to note here, as I'm sure Jesus' heart was heavy and he probably wanted to share as much as he possibly could before leaving.
No doubt weary, but ready for some fellowship with friends, he settled in to the sisters' home. But as he was trying to connect with them through small-group teaching, he probably couldn't help but notice that only one sister was listening.
"Mary … who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said."
So while Mary was paying attention, Martha was buzzing around the kitchen. Perhaps she had a chicken roasting in the oven and it needed constant monitoring. Or maybe her potatoes gratin wasn't bubbling up fast enough or needed some extra cheese grated on top. Who knows what was keeping Martha away from Jesus! Whatever it was, she had made it a higher priority and it was causing her to miss out on what was better.
I'm sure, like most women, Martha was trying to do it all and didn't ask for help. And then playing the "martyr card," she finally went public with her irritation.
"Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
Oh Martha. I just love her, because she reminds me so much of myself. Her attention was directed toward that which seemed more important, but in reality it wasn't nearly as important as the message she was missing out on right there in her living room. How could she miss that? Jesus, in the flesh, teaching in your own home?
"But wait a minute," you might say. "Isn't taking care of company and making sure there's food on the table important, too?" Well yes, of course it's always good to make sure you are serving others. But if what you make a priority is at the expense of seeking the Lord first, then you have to rethink your priorities.
Jesus then kindly answered a frazzled and frustrated Martha.
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed."
Now, insert your own name there and think about that again. And just for kicks and grins, I'll insert mine.
"Laura, Laura" the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed."
Really, Lord? But what about what's going on in this possible relationship in my life right now or what about what's happening in the economy and in my dwindling 401K or what if I don't work on this urgent project right now and I miss the deadline?
And then Jesus gently answers.
"Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Simple as that. And it is our choice. What is better is choosing time spent with the Lord, hearing from him and gleaning from the teaching of his Word. And that is what can never be taken away.
That was a new lightbulb moment for me in rereading this passage. When we choose time spent with the Father, the benefits cannot be taken away from us. Scripture that you hide in your heart, spiritual truths that you study and learn … these are treasures that you have stored within you. They will not burn. They are investments in the Kingdom. And they are eternal and everlasting.
Remember, when you choose to make God a priority in your life, you will always choose what is better and it will not be taken away from you.
Intersecting Faith & Life:
Put down the phone. Set down your agenda. Put any whining children in time out. And get in the Word. If you're in a meeting or driving your car, then meditate on Scripture. Ask God to help you choose what is better in every situation, in every hour and in every decision today.
**Listen to the audio/podcast version of this crosswalk devotional here.