Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Whenever I preach/teach about this story, I invariably receive negative feedback from at least one Martha in the crowd. The negativity isn’t usually expressed toward me, but toward Jesus.
“You know,” they say in a whisper so he won’t hear us, “I’ve never really liked this story. I mean, did he think the food would just appear out of thin air? Who was going to do the dishes? You don’t see him and the guys lifting a finger to help her. Without the Marthas, no one would eat or have clean clothes or get anywhere on time. Marthas make the world go ‘round.”
They have a point. As a card-carrying Martha, I also bristle a little at Jesus’ reproach of the one who’s provided the very banquet, home, meal and opportunity for his rebuke. It honestly seems a little rude.
It’s summertime in Kentucky. And as I drive around town, or speak with friends, it seems to be a good time for both Marthas and Marys. I observe that most of us have a little of both—a worker side and a contemplative side. I see people laboring in their yards, hear about them planning restoration or painting a bedroom, cleaning out closets, participating in service projects. Then the same people are later seen hanging out on their porches with neighbors until late in the evening, watching the kids catch lightning bugs, eating leisurely meals cooked outside, reading novels, taking vacations, reconnecting with old friends or distant family members.
Summer is a time for the Marys to connect to their Martha side. Summer is a time for the Marthas to engage their Mary side. My Martha-ness doesn’t want to admit it, but Jesus is right. I don’t think he was concerned about the work (I’d like to think he deeply appreciated it). I think he didn’t like to see her “worried and distracted” by it. We Marthas have a tendency for overkill in the worry and distraction departments.
So, Martha, put down the paint roller or laundry detergent. Roll the lawnmower into the garage. Unplug the vacuum cleaner. Pour yourself a glass of sweet tea and watch the sunset. It’ll make you a better person.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2010