Often one of our children (ages 11 and 14) still complains that he or she is being treated differently. Someone had to do a chore that the other did not. One of them received more screen time or ice cream or rides in the front seat. Sadly, even grown-ups can play the comparison game.
This brief scene in Bethany is recorded only by Luke. Jesus and His disciples had arrived in the Jerusalem area, and as He prepared His followers for what was to come, He delivered some intense training on key aspects of the faith. He was likely doing some such teaching at the home of Mary and Martha, sisters to Lazarus, when this conversation took place. Ironically, as He lectured on discipleship, the two sisters provided a perfect and living illustration.
Martha worked intently on the preparations involved with hosting an important person like Jesus. She wanted to show Him the honor He was due. By contrast, Mary took the opportunity to sit at His feet and absorb His every word. When Martha asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her, she assumed He would affirm her critique and come to her aid. The original Greek wording indicates her confident expectation.
Jesus’ response was gentle, but firm. “My dear, dear Martha.” He rebuked her—tenderly—for her trivial concerns and her unnecessary focus on comparison. Jesus did not criticize her work, only her expectation that Mary must join.
Mary provided the flesh- and-blood example of devoted discipleship that Jesus was asking for. It was also significant that Jesus deemed a woman to be worthy of His teaching. In that first-century culture, women did not often receive an education. That Jesus publicly affirmed her= choice was no small compliment.
>> It’s tempting for us, as well, to serve at the expense of being fed. We can unfairly evaluate the focus of others and compare them to ourselves. May we prioritize our own heart and soul nourishment, even over service.
There are so many ways we can and do go wrong. We throw ourselves into service at the cost of spending time with You; we judge others because their obedience to You looks different from ours. Teach us to pursue You first.