“But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:40-42)
In the summer of 2010, we were contemplating putting two churches together and I was a bit overwhelmed. I asked a good friend and counselor how I could possibly be in charge of this potentially large church when I was already feeling overwhelmed. He suggested a study day once a week where I would only be available to God, and he told me about his pastor back in Michigan who had done this.
“Because he did this he touched fewer people,” he explained. This didn’t seem right! Why would it ever be good for a pastor to touch fewer people? But then he went on, “He touched fewer people because he had less availability, but because he did this, God was able to touch many more people through him.” He said with great soberness, “I don’t remember a Sunday where people didn’t get saved, healed, or filled with the Holy Spirit. Somehow God touched him in that time away and then God touched through him Sunday after Sunday.”
The next week I asked our elders for a study day every week and it’s been part of my regular routine ever since. What does this have to do with Martha and Mary?
Martha is a good person who is doing good work but she is carrying an expectation for her sister. For Mary to continue to do what Jesus wants her to do instead of giving into the pressure Martha is applying will mean at least three things: a Christian sister is going to be disappointed, a real need is seemingly going to go unmet, and Mary’s not going to look “good” to anyone observing.
But Mary has chosen the “one thing.” She is more available to God and less available to people, so she only serves when God tells her to go. She is no longer called by every need in the world or by every expectation of the people around her. She is listening only for the voice of her Lord.
Because of her devotion something wonderful happens for Martha. She gets her own encounter with Jesus where her motives are revealed and her priorities are challenged.