I imagine that most of us have had company come to visit us at some time. That occasion probably brought about the desire to clean and “spruce up” our homes. There is nothing wrong with having a clean home, but we should not let the trivial matters override the main focus. We are going to have the privilege of hosting a guest. We are going to enjoy time together. These facts should supersede matters of less importance. Likewise, once the guest has arrived, we are probably going to do our parts to make him feel welcome. We likely will offer him food and drink. If he is staying overnight, we will probably show him where he can sleep. None of these things are bad. However, we can become so “busy” tending to such things that we miss out on enjoying the visit. In Luke’s account of the Gospel, there is a record of the time that Jesus was a guest in the home of his friends. Albeit a short record, it teaches a very strong lesson.
Luke wrote, “Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42). Bible students might recall that these two ladies, Martha and Mary, had a brother as well. His name was Lazarus, and it is he that the Lord resurrected (John 11).
From the outset, Martha seems very gracious and hospitable. She “received” Jesus into her home. There is nothing in the immediate context that suggests that Martha was forced into offering hospitality. It seems that she, out of the kindness of her heart, was very welcoming. Once Jesus entered, Martha is described as being “cumbered about serving”. This is indicative of the amount of effort that she used to make the Lord feel comfortable. Many people would commend and honor Martha for her willingness to serve in such a way. However, Martha became upset with her sister, Mary, because since Jesus’ arrival, Mary had been sitting at the feet of the Lord, listening to Him. This lack of help disturbed Martha to the point that she even questioned Jesus whether he cared about such. It was after this that Jesus revealed a mild rebuke and strong truth.
It is apparent that Martha was trying to be a good hostess, but in her efforts to be such, she was missing a great opportunity to learn from the Lord. Jesus described Martha as “…careful and troubled about many things”. She was allowing the physical things of housekeeping to keep her from enjoying the privilege of hearing the word of the Lord. Jesus rightly explained that Mary was focused on matters more important than those of Martha. As such, Jesus would not instruct Mary to help her sister at that time.
Are we ever guilty of behaving similarly to Martha? Do we ever allow the physical things of this life to keep us from “hearing” the Lord (Rom. 10:17)? Do we find “reasons” not to be in Bible studies? Have we placed tending to guests as a legitimate “reason” to be absent from worship? If we have, then we have fallen into the same unfortunate position as Martha. We only have a very short amount of time in this life to “listen” to the Lord (James 4:14). Mary maximized the time that she had by sitting and listening. We should prioritize Bible study. There should be a conscious effort to make sure that we do not become “cumbered” with other things that take us away from learning from God. The apostle Paul mentioned to both the church in Ephesus and the church in Colosse the need to “redeem the time” (Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5). We should not waste the time that God has given us to learn. When we appear before Christ in judgment, He is going to use His Word as the Standard by which we will either get to go to Heaven or Hell (John 12:48). If we have not “listened” to Him while we could, then we will regret it in eternity.
~ Corey Barnette