Mary & Martha—Luke 10: 38–42
Now as they went on their way, he 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.”
— Luke 10: 38-42
Pastor and writer Max Lucado tells the story of how he taught his young daughter to ride a bicycle. As she descended a small hill, her bike rapidly picked up speed and began moving faster and faster; soon the handlebars were shaking out of control. Lucado reminded her to apply the brakes, but she responded frantically: “I can’t remember how to stop pedaling!” So, she crashed into the curb.
This little girl’s experience is analogous to many of our lives. We’re so constantly busy, doing, and working that we forget how to put on the brakes. This certainly seems to be Martha’s dilemma. Like so many of us, Martha defines herself by her productivity; by how much she is able to get accomplished. This may appear as an admirable goal, but our output level is no way to measure our worth. Mary wisely chooses the better part over her sister by knowing when to just “be” rather than constantly “do.”
I’ve referred to our culture’s penchant for workaholism as “Martharitis” — something akin to a disease that distorts one’s ability to separate their God-given worth from their work. But Jesus teaches that too much work can distract us from more important things; namely our ability to spend time with Him! Israel’s fourth commandment tells us to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” But the story of Mary and Martha goes beyond that, reminding us that every opportunity to be in the presence of Christ is to be cherished. We should intentionally seek out those moments for ourselves, and know when to stop “doing” so that we can simply enjoy “being” with Jesus.
[Editor’s note: originally published June 10, 2010]