"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (NIV)
1. Jesus is greatly pleased by the eagerness of women to serve Him, and learn from Him (vv. 38-39).
Recall these events from our previous reflections in Luke:
a) God chose a poor servant girl, with no reputation, to become the mother of our Savior (Lk 1:26-38).
b) Jesus gladly accepted the affectionate anointing of perfume given by the woman who had received much scorn from religious leaders, because of her former lifestyle (Lk 7:36-50).
c) Jesus gladly received the personal involvement and resources of women such as Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Cuza while carrying out His ministry (Lk 8:1-3).
And in this passage, Jesus welcomes Martha's hospitality, and accepts Mary's act of lying at his feet to receive his teaching (v. 39) - even though, at that time, only young men were expected and encouraged to sit at the feet of rabbis.
These events remind us that men and women are both made equally in the image of God, and that their gender does not make them any less or more valuable to the kingdom of God -if they trust in Christ (Gal 3:28).
2. Ironically, service for Christ can easily lead us away from Christ Himself (v. 40a, 41).
Martha's problem was not that she gave any attention to the preparations (for, as the text reads, "the preparations...had to be made", v.40), but that she was "pulled away" by them (for that is what "distracted" means here). In other words, she was so concerned that that the preparations be "just right" that they were causing her anxiety (v. 41). Therefore, in this moment anyways, she was not trusting the LORD in her situation.
3. When we focus too much on our service for Christ, it also becomes easy for us to demand that others meet our expectations (v. 40b).
Conflict within leads to conflict without - see also James 4:1-3 in relation to this. Martha's desire for things to go well turned into a demand or insistence that they would do so, and it wasn't long before she insisted that Mary measure up to her demandingness, even though the latter was sitting at the Lord's feet.
4. Whether or not we seek the rule of Christ in our hearts is the ultimate test of our devotion to Him (v. 41).
"you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed" (v. 41-42). In other words, there was only one thing that Martha needed to be concerned about - and that was, submitting to the Lordship of Christ in her heart, by continually listening to His words, as Mary did.
As Jesus says in the Sermon in the Mount (and note, the context of these words is the "do not worry" passage!), "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things (i.e. the things you tend to worry about) will be given to you as well" (Matt 6:33).
Recall also, when we studied Jesus' words to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3, how the church in Ephesus had performed many good works in the sight of Jesus (2:2-3) and yet He could still say about them, "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first" (2:4-5).
Discussion Question 1: In what ways can you identify with Martha?
Discussion Question 2: What are some of the ways in which we can listen to the words of God? How can we make time for these moments?