The Lord and his disciples were traveling along and came to a village. When they got there, a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down in front of the Lord and was listening to what he said. Martha was worried about all that had to be done. Finally, she went to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it bother you that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!”
The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha! You are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38–42)
What does Jesus want us to do? Once we know, we shouldn’t worry about what our neighbor is doing or not doing. Just because Jesus has us doing something and just because it is vitally important, doesn’t mean that we need to force someone else to join in our task.
Mary and Martha, with their brother Lazarus, lived in Bethany, a village on the slope of the Mount of Olives, barely two miles east of Jerusalem. They became good friends with Jesus.
But Martha makes at least three mistakes in her relationship with her sister. First, if she wanted something of her sister, then she should have talked to her sister. Why go to someone else? Second, Jesus may have been a man, but he was not Mary’s brother or father or any other male relative. Based on the prevailing custom of the time, Jesus had no authority over Mary’s behavior. And finally, Martha was the one who believed that there was work that needed to get done around the house. Well and good, but why should Mary have to have the same concerns that Martha did?
What was more important than whatever Martha was doing was the guest that she was ostensibly doing it for. Martha forgot that Jesus was more important than the preparations. Mary, in contrast, had chosen to focus her attentions on the guest, rather than on preparations for the guest.
While people might appreciate the meal and a clean place to be, what they really appreciate is the time they spend with us. People matter more than anything else.