Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Why did Jesus tell Martha, who was serving the Lord and making preparations, that Mary had "chosen what is better"?

From Luke 10: 38-42,

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

share|improve this question
    
This was downvoted? –  Yuck Mar 3 at 12:57
add comment

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 6:33

This is what Mary was doing. Although what Martha was doing was not wrong, her focus was on those things and not on Jesus. Many people can get so caught up in church and completely forget about Jesus. Fixing things, making sure everything is ok, cooking, etc... They're not bad things, but when you leave Jesus aside, you are leaving salvation aside. We must seek Him first, everything else will be added on. This is what Mary did.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Luke 10:38-42 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

Here we have in Mary an illustration of a heart that is given to the Lord and in Martha a heart that is given to pleasing the Lord by works.
Jesus said of Martha "you are worried and upset about many things”; this indicates that faith in God’s grace was lacking in Martha. The one thing that is needed is “faith in God’s grace” from which eternal service legitimately proceeds.

share|improve this answer
    
"many things" brought to mind Kierkegaard's Purity of Heart Is To Will One Thing. –  Paul A. Clayton Oct 8 '13 at 14:20
    
@rick I don't wish to undermine your answer, but after we meet Jesus and accept Him as Savior, isn't it right to do what best pleases the LORD and not what displeases Him? I believe the Bible is clear that works are essential, but ONLY AFTER we have accepted Christ and the salvation He offers us. Mary and Martha knew Jesus, were close to Him, and had even accepted Him as LORD. The problem is when there is no daily communion with Jesus and He is put aside, we get further and further away from Him. Martha was allowing the things of life to be of more importance that Jesus Himself. –  jlaverde Oct 8 '13 at 15:22
    
@jlaverde, essentially the same could be said of Cain. –  Rick Oct 8 '13 at 16:24
    
@Rick The words of God to Cain. "So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you DO WELL, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Was there something to be done according to God? Yes. Did Cain do it? No, instead killed his brother. –  jlaverde Oct 8 '13 at 16:45
    
@jlaverde, If you want to continue this conversation I would be glad to, my profile has my address, however this is not the best place. –  Rick Oct 8 '13 at 16:50
add comment

Good question.

Though the above answers are excellent, I'll be coming at things from a different direction and with a different perspective.

In Middle Eastern culture, and to a certain extent even today in cultures around the world, the responsibility of hosts is to make their guests feel welcome, accepted, and loved. Although Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus and had spent a good deal of time with them, He was still a guest in their house.

Which was more important to Jesus: the cleanliness of the house and what was for dinner, or conversation with His friends and His disciples? Obviously, the latter. I suggest that Jesus, instead of having a big meal with His friends and disciples, would rather have fasted (i.e., skipped the meal) and simply conversed with the people who had gathered in the house.

Remember Jesus' words in John 4:

"But [Jesus] said to [His disciples], 'I have food to eat that you do not know about. . . . My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work'" (vv.32,34).

Jesus also said,

"'It is written, MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD'" (Matthew 4:4).

So, which is more important: bread? or words from God's mouth? Since Jesus was the God-Man, Mary's listening to what He had to say was the "better part," as compared to Martha's distracted serving.

When people get distracted, in effect they are forgetting that "the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!" Mary got it; Martha, not so much.

The "better part" of hospitality for us Christians today is to make our guests feel welcome, accepted, and loved. In Greek, the New Testament word hospitality means literally "lover of strangers," which concept has its roots in the Tanakh and its teaching on the responsibility of God's people to care for orphans, widows, and aliens (i.e., strangers). That God was concerned about the aliens in Israel's midst suggests to me that God has the heart of an evangelist who wants aliens/strangers to become part of His forever-family.

In conclusion, the main thing for Jesus was to do His Father's will and to finish His work. For Jesus, this involved preaching, teaching, healing, forgiving, discipling, and ultimately giving His life as a ransom for many. Mary realized this and consequently hung on His every word. Martha, though she may too have realized this, she had forgotten it, temporarily, by allowing herself to become distracted, worried, and upset.

When's the last time you skipped a meal to get to know Jesus a little better and to listen to what He has to say to you? His words proceed from the mouth of God.

Food for thought (pun intended).

share|improve this answer
    
Great answer thank you so much for writing this up. –  Yuck Oct 9 '13 at 17:13
    
@Yuck: You're welcome, I'm sure. Thanks for the encouragement. Don –  rhetorician Oct 9 '13 at 17:18
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.