The Better Part


Once again, God, through Our Daily Bread, gave me something to think about. The Scripture passage Po Fang Chia chose for this edition was Luke 10:38-42, where Martha took exception to Mary’s choice of activity during Jesus’ visit; Martha chose to fuss over the domestic details, while Mary just wanted to sit at Jesus’ feet, listening to him. If that story doesn’t resonate with your experience in church-life, I’ll explain its significance.

First we must ask ourselves, “Am I a Martha, or a Mary?” To answer that, we need to speculate about their respective motives. I suspect Martha kept her home as neat as the proverbial pin, so Jesus found it clean and comfortable during his visit. Yet, she felt compelled to go the extra ten miles by serving him a lavish meal. Why? Perhaps she felt that he deserved her very best, or maybe she just wanted to impress him.

Some people are so motivated to work that they seem manic about it. Is that because they love to work? Not when they complain about those who don’t help. I suspect that some such compulsive workers do so because they feel a need to vindicate themselves, evidenced by their conspicuous complaints about being over-worked. Was that Martha? Others slave away from a sense of duty. Was that Martha? Still others perform a labor of love, not of duty or vindication. Was that Martha? If you’re a worker, which one are you?

Now we come to the ninety percent who let the ten percent do all the work. My first impulse is to label them as complacent.

Um … uh … I didn’t want to go here, but I’m afraid it’s self-examination time. You see, at the moment I’m one of the ninety percent. I love group Bible-study, but does that make me a Mary? Do I sit at my Lord’s feet, rapturously listening to him? Do I love him above all else? While I get a lot out of Bible-study, does that exempt me from helping with the teaching and other work?

Of course, I can only speak for myself, and not very clearly at that. As honestly as I can say it, my own deepest motives are a mystery to me. What does that say about my ability to discern others’ motives? That’s why our Lord forbade us to judge others, even the Sunday-only faces and twice-a-year churchgoers.

Candidly, I can’t rate myself as a Mary, and certainly not a Martha, but as God answers my heartfelt prayer I will become more faithful in whatever service he has called me to.

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