I believe Martha and I were cut from the same cloth, so to speak. Practical, concerned in material service, hospitable and self-denying. Excellent traits to possess, on the surface, but have they prevented me from having better relationships? How have these traits impacted my ability to love, and be loved? Give, and find joy? The story of Martha and Mary as found in the New Testament of the King James Bible (Luke 10: 38-42) helped me learn that I, too, need to “choose the better part”.
On one of His visits to Bethany, a small town about two miles from Jerusalem, Jesus was received at the home where dwelt two sisters, Martha and Mary. Martha was a housekeeper, and therefore she assumed responsibility for the proper treatment of the distinguished Guest. While she busied herself with preparations and was “cumbered about much serving,” well intended for the comfort and entertainment of Jesus. Mary sat at the Master’s feet, listening with reverent attention to His words. Martha grew fretful in her bustling anxiety, and came in, say, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.”
She was talking to Jesus, but really at Mary.
For the moment she lost her calmness in undue worry over incidental details. It is reasonable to infer that Jesus was on terms of familiarity in the household, else the good woman would scarcely have appealed to Him in a little matter of domestic concern. He replied to her complaining words with marked tenderness:
“Martha, Martha, though art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
There was no reproof of Martha’s desire to provide well; nor any sanction of possible neglect on Mary’s part. We must suppose that Mary had been a willing helper before the Master’s arrival; but now He had come, she chose to remain with Him. Had she been culpably neglectful of her duty, Jesus would not have commended her course.
He desired not well-served meals and material comforts only, but the company of the sisters, and above all their receptive attention to what He had to say. He had more to give them than they could possibly provide for Him. Jesus loved the two sisters and their brother as well. (see John 11:5) Both these women were devoted to Jesus, and each expressed herself in her own way. Martha was of a practical turn, concerned in material service; she was by nature hospitable and self-denying. Mary, contemplative and more spiritually inclined, showed her devotion though the service of companionship and appreciation. (see John 12:2, 3)**
By inattention to household duties, the little touches that make or mar the family peace, many a woman has reduced her home to a comfortless house; and many another has eliminated the essential elements of home by her self assumed persistent drudgery, in which she denies to dear ones the cheer of her loving companionship. One-sided service, however devoted, may become neglect. There is a time for labor inside the home as in the open; in every family time should be found for cultivating that better part, that one thing needful–true, spiritual development.
**Talmage, James E. “Jesus The Christ” Desert Book Company, Salt Lake City.pg 402-403.