The incident in the bible (Luke 10:38-42) where Jesus goes round for a meal with his close friends Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus whom Jesus would later raise from the dead, has a tendency to divide Christians into the Marys, who apparently spend all their time worshipping Jesus, and the Marthas who apparently spend all their time in the kitchen.
But to divide Christians in this way is, I think, a too simplistic interpretation of the message and can lead to a feeling of condemnation or the so-called Marthas and a feeling of superiority for the so-called Marys.
I think one of the key phrases in the passage is where we are told that ‘Martha was distracted by all the preparations’ (:40). The problem with Martha was not that she was a practical person; the gifts of hospitality and serving are valuable gifts in every church and recognised in Paul’s letters. The problem with Martha was that she got worried and upset about many things (:41), and allowed them to distract her from spending time with Jesus.
Spending time quietly in the presence of Jesus was commended of Mary, and is important for all of us. But let’s just hope that she helped with the preparations before Jesus arrived, and with the clearing up after he left!
We don’t have the same problem that Mary and Martha had, that Jesus would only be with them for a short time; Jesus is with us always, through the presence of his Spirit. But we still get distracted by all the preparations that have to be made, and get worried and upset about many things.
What is it that distracts you from spending time with Jesus in prayer and in reflection on his word? For many of us it will be work, family commitments or the television, but for most of us, if you are anything like me, it is simply a matter of discipline; taking time aside before you start the day or making time to stop during the day. Let’s not get distracted from what is important.
I think God is looking for Christians who have a balance of the Mary and the Martha, who will spend time in his presence and who will allow that time to enrich and inspire everything else that we do.
Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!