Choosing What Is Better

Martha got a raw deal.

Remember Martha? She's the woman in the New Testament who complained to Jesus, when he and his disciples were visiting, that her sister Mary was just sitting at his feet listening to his teaching instead of helping Martha with the cooking and other preparations necessary to accommodate their guests.

Jesus wasn't sympathetic. According to Chapter 10, verses 41-42 of Luke's Gospel (New International Version), he replied "Martha, Martha, 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."

Well, of course Mary has "chosen what is better." She's hanging out with the guests, making conversation, meanwhile leaving her sister to cope with getting a meal ready and finding beds for a bunch of unexpected visitors.

This was back in the days before the early Christian church ossified him into the Savior, when Jesus was an itinerant preacher. Not only did he travel the countryside, but he had an entourage—the disciples and who knows how many other followers. The miracle of the loaves and fishes aside, somebody had to feed all those people day after day.

True, maybe Martha was one of those relentless hostesses who fuss and fret over irrelevant details and who are always jumping up to refill the coffee cups or offer third helpings when you really wish they'd just sit down and join the conversation. But maybe, with a baker's dozen extra men to feed, she just wanted some badly-needed help in the kitchen.

Either way, you can bet your loaves and fishes that when the food got to the table, Jesus interrupted his teaching long enough to eat what was set before him, take seconds, and have a big helping of dessert.

Maybe Jesus truly believed Mary chose what was better when she opted for conversation over cooking. But as far as that goes, who ever said the two were mutually exclusive? Plenty of intimate discussions, philosophy, and teaching can and do happen over peeling vegetables or washing dishes. If everyone had pitched in to help Martha get food and beds ready, and had talked while they worked, that really would have been choosing what was better.

Even as a kid, I thought this story was unfair to Martha. Now, as an adult with some experience in unexpected overnight guests, I still think so. But by now I have a different idea of the meaning behind the story. It isn't really a matter of the spiritual over the mundane. It's an explanation of who Jesus really was.

Actually, it can be taken as proof of who he was. His lack of appreciation for the work involved in feeding and making beds for a dozen drop-in guests makes it clear. He really was the son of God.

A daughter of God would have chosen better.

Categories: Just For Fun, Living Consciously | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Choosing What Is Better

  1. Frank

    I read your comments and talked about it with your Aunt Ginny, who is well versed in the Bible, which I am not. She said that Jesus was hard on Martha. Perhaps she has changed her mind. She should add her comments to you.

  2. Ginny

    I have always had a hard time with this story….I, too, have thought that Martha was over burdened and treated without sympathy..maybe the greater moral of the story has escaped me, but I still think that the Marthas of this world are needed. Spiritual needs need to be addressed…but many an emotional problem has been eased by a sympathetic ear lent while doing dishes. Ginny

  3. Nancy

    I think the message is to be totally “there” and attentive to the person you are with. If Martha would have chosen to sit and visit also, eventually someone (maybe even a man) would have gotten some food out. It was Martha’s choice and she should have done it without complaining. EWWWW – that sounded harsh – I hope it doesn’t come back to haunt me at the next family get-to-gether. What does Alvis think? After being told to “get out of my way, I’m cooking!” I did appologize, and he did like the soup.

  4. Kathleen

    Nancy, you definitely make a good point about Martha’s choice–though looking at it that way doesn’t provide as much opportunity to write sarcastic things about the story. I can’t really speak for Alvis, except to mention that we’re having company for supper tonight and he’s doing the cooking.(So of course I’m being helpful and staying out of the way!)

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