What is your number one priority in your life? Is it work? Leisure? Service? Money? Family? We give priority to what is most important.
The story of Mary and Martha has been one of the most treasured narratives in Scripture. Who doesn’t identify with hardworking Martha? And who doesn’t admire the single-minded devotion of Mary? The Lord uses these two women to teach us a valuable lesson on priorities.
First, we see Martha’s priority in verse 38, “Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.” We see that hospitality was a special hallmark of this family. Martha in particular is portrayed as a meticulous hostess. The fact that her name is usually listed first whenever she’s named with her siblings, strongly implies she was the elder sister of Mary and Lazarus. She had received word that Jesus was coming to their home so she wanted everything to be perfect for this special guest. What Martha was doing was by no means a bad thing as she was waiting on Christ. Martha was acting as a servant to all, just as Christ had so often commanded. She no doubt began with the best of motives and the noblest of intentions.
Second, we see Mary’s position in verse 39, “She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him, absorbing His every word. How often do we hear the Word but don’t listen to what Christ is saying to us? Mary understood the importance of this occasion. The Son of God Himself was a guest in her home and she wanted to listen and worship Him. Mary knew God’s Word and gave it priority. Mary was spending time with the One she loved the most. As John MacArthur writes, “Mary seemed to be able to discern Jesus’ true meaning even better than any of the twelve disciples. Her gesture of anointing Him in preparation for His burial at the beginning of that final week in Jerusalem shows a remarkable mature understanding.” That was the fruit of her willingness to sit still, listen and ponder.
Third, Martha’s preparation in verse 40, “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.” Notice Martha was distracted by all her preparations. The issue is not one of serving, but priority. How many times are we dragged away by other distractions? Perhaps by kids, work, busyness, TV, social media etc. We see in this passage that Martha’s bitterness and anxiety has grown now to the Lord. How many times does our bitterness turn us to ask the Lord this same question, “Lord, do you not care?” Do you not care that I’m losing my job, I’m not pregnant, I’m still single, I’m poor, I’m lonely? Christ cares so much for us that He became a man on our behalf. We question God’s goodness because we lose contentment when we get anxious and tied up in the preparation of things in this world. How many times do we put our priority before our number one priority, which is Jesus?
Finally, we see the Lord’s priority in verse 41 and 42, “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.” The Lord’s loving affection for Martha is evident in this passage. What are those things in our life that distract us from Christ? What are the things that take you away from spending time at the feet of Jesus Christ and His Word? As Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Jesus’ priority is for us to sit at His feet and learn from Him. We spend time with those we love. May we focus on the two things of this world that are eternal: the souls of men and the Word of God. May each of us ask ourselves this question…”Why don’t I spend more time at the feet of Jesus?”