Can you imagine? I have tried to put myself in her place. She wanted things to be perfect. Who could blame her? Martha was hosting the King of Heaven into her humble abode. She knew of His miracles. Her heart was warmed by His life-giving words. She was excited to host Him for a meal. Gratitude filled her heart so she invited Jesus and His disciples to her home for a meal. She visualized the perfect night hosting the Messiah. They would sit, eat, relax, and fellowship and she would serve them. The presence of God would fill her home.
Mary, Martha’s sister, was not the one who invited Jesus. It wasn’t her idea. Why should she have to do anything but enjoy the moment? But Martha expected Mary to help-so much needed to be done to create the perfect meal, the perfect night. Martha was running around frantically with self-imposed pressure to make everything perfect. And there was Mary, just sitting there. Martha’s heart was filled with anger.
Mary Chose What Was Better
The Scripture says that Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She was upset with Mary who just sat at Jesus’ feet listening to what He was saying. Jesus said to her, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few are needed…Mary has chosen what is better.”
I love that-Mary has chosen what is better. I want to be a person who chooses what is better. When we peer into this scene, it might seem as if Jesus is saying that learning from Him is better than serving Him. But that would conflict with other Scripture. We are taught that we must learn from the Lord, but equally we must serve Him. Ephesians 4 teaches maturity comes from serving. As the church serves in acts of service, the Holy Spirit works to bring maturity and unity. Jesus told the woman at the well that God looks for those who worship in spirit and truth. Mary worshipped in spirit-she spent time in His presence. Martha worshipped in truth being obedient as a servant to the Lord. Does the Father not approve and require both? Isn’t one weakened without the other? Mary chose what was better not in her actions, but in her focus.
Mary Chose What Was Better not in her Actions, but in her Focus
The context is about what was in Martha’s mind. Her mind was focused on what she was doing and she lost connection to the purpose of her activity. Her distraction and anger was caused by focusing on herself. Consequently, she lost the joy she could’ve had. Have you ever been so preoccupied with getting things ready for that you lost sight of why you were getting things ready? I will tell you as a preacher, it is so easy to get distracted by everything that should be happening in church that the purpose of church gets lost. How can we connect with the Holy Spirit when He is not our focus? How can we worship in spirit distracted by earthly things? The Lord is our reason. He is our purpose. He is why we get up in the morning. It is for Him and by Him that we live and breathe. The Bible even says so much:
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. -Colossians 1:16
Think of all the things we worry about in this life. Were we created for any of those things? We were NOT created to do laundry, to make money, to please people, to build a career, or anything else? We were created for communion with God. Everything else must fit within this design of our creation. We worry about having enough money. We worry about what people think. We worry about not being good enough. Yet none of these are the reason we exist. We were created for Him.
What we Focus on will Fill our Heart, Mind, and Spirit
Jesus said the eyes are the lamp of the body (Luke 11:34). What we focus on will fill our heart, mind, and spirit. We are taught in the Scripture to keep the eyes of our heart focused on what is true, not false; what is noble, not lowly; what is pure, not convoluted; what is lovely, not repulsive; what propels, not discourages; whatever is excellent and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8-9). Focusing on these things in every situation is choosing what is better. What are you focused on?
In everything we do, there is the ‘what’ and the ‘why.’ They why is static. It never changes. Whatever we do, the ‘why’ is to glorify the Lord. Focusing on the what and ignoring the why makes us cranky, bitter, and ultimately very disappointed. The unpleasant things we must do in this life will never add meaning as long as we neglect the purpose.
The Unpleasant things we do in this life will never add Meaning as long as we Neglect the Purpose
I serve my family because Jesus has blessed me with a wife and children to love and who love me. I serve humanity because God has been so good to me and He loves the people He has called me to serve. I go to work because God has given me opportunities to be a blessing from what my hands produce. I suffer joyfully because I know Jesus will end all suffering one day. He is my purpose and this must be my focus. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Let us fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen (2 Cor. 4:18).
Well, Martha would get a second chance. Jesus came again to eat in her home. This time celebrating Martha’s brother Lazarus being raised from the dead. Martha again worked hard to prepare the perfect meal with the perfect setting. And what about Mary? Well, she didn’t help this time either. Nope, this time she worshipped the Lord passionately. She poured out expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, letting down her hair to dry them. She honored Him with complete humility. The Bible says the whole house was filled with the fragrance of perfume. It was the fragrance of pure worship. All the while, Martha worked getting everything ready. But this time, things were different.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.-Phil 4:8
We do not see Martha complaining. We are not given details, but I believe Martha changed her focus. She was still serving, but chosing what was better. She was content to serve with a thankful heart, serving the One who raised her brother from the dead. It was the same work, the same sweat, and the same sister not helping, but this time she was fulfilled in her work. She chose what was better. Mary poured the perfume, but Martha’s focus made her work a sacrifice, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. The pure worship of both sisters, in different ways, but focused on Jesus, filled the room with the fragrance of perfume and adoration.
Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. -Luke 11:34
Lord, help us to keep our eyes on you and choose what is better.