June 8, 2021
By: Gabriel Tseng

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.” –Luke 10:38-42

Being vs Doing. Abiding and performance. These are often pitted against each other. Perhaps for good reason at times. We will straddle this line many times in how fruit is produced. We will serve and help, but will we do it wholeheartedly and with grateful hearts? Will we give out of obligation or a sense of duty more than out of an overflow of the kindness we have received from the Lord? 

Mary and Martha is a wonderful story of sisters with gifts and talents that seem to be contrasted with each other. It’s important to know that both are beautiful and necessary and enjoyed by the Lord. The company of Mary is evident, but also the food and bounty that will be enjoyed and prepared by Martha. It’s important to be cautious in vilifying Martha for her “performance orientation” for it is also Martha who got a great many things right in her confession and understanding of Jesus in the Gospel of John chapter 11. 

We do however do see one as of primary interest in this story, but it is not one character’s performance over the other. Martha’s heart is revealed in her words, “don’t you care?” which seems consistent with her heart in John 11, “if you were here Lord….” Jesus sees her heart, with much love, worried and upset about many things, perhaps the comparison game, or perhaps something else. This much is clear, whatever Mary has, the very presence of Jesus will not be taken away from her. It will also NOT be taken away from Martha if that is what she chooses. There is a discontentedness and Jesus neither tells Martha that her work and her service is not beautiful or should not be celebrated, but He points to what is better. Let us choose what is better. Our service, our overflow of action is to be in response to the Lord’s kindness to us. 

I want to make much of the previous passage of the Good Samaritan in which the question of “Who is my neighbor” is addressed. Yes, we are to do good, but we are to abide in the truth that Jesus accomplishes for us what we could not accomplish for ourselves. Our language, our service, whether done genuinely joyful and generously abundantly, reveals a deep abiding of Christ in our hearts, or a heart of worry or discontent. We need new hearts, not simply better performance. 

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