Misplaced Priorities, Mindless Behavior, and A Woman Named Martha
We now live in a time where our lives have become so unimaginably hectic, loaded with activities, and defined by stress. Just check your “to-do” list and you’ll realize this. And so the word priorities enter the scene.
But what is a priority? We can define this word by taking its root word, prior. So a priority is prior to other things. It precedes other things. It comes before other things. It is of higher importance than other things.
But what exactly is our main priority as Christians? We can find the answer from the story of Jesus’ visit to the home of sisters named Martha and Mary. Let’s turn our Bibles to Luke 10:38-42.
38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village…
Jesus and his disciples were on their way to Jerusalem, where He will be condemned and crucified (Luke 9:51). They went to Bethany. We know this because John records that Martha and Mary also had a brother named Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead (John 11:1). His ministry also takes a shift, lessening miracles and healing, and more to teaching, as we can see from the time span between Luke 9:51 and Luke 21:38.
38…where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.
The phrase “a woman named” implies that Jesus and His disciples did not know her. This was their first time to meet her. Martha and Mary was probably converted through the ministry of one of the pairs from the seventy-two disciples that Jesus appointed (Luke 10:1). Excited that the Lord, whom she just heard in the gospel at first, had now come to Bethany, she “opened her home to him.”
39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
The word sat is translated to Greek as parakathizo, which literally means to sit down beside. Mary was seated beside Jesus. She was close to Him so that she won’t miss a word. Her posture suggests that she was interested to learn from Him. That was her agenda—to learn from Him, to abide by His words. (Remember, Jesus’ ministry shifted to teaching. That was Jesus objective in His visit to the two sisters. And it was good for Mary to listen to Him teach). Now, let’s take a look at her sister’s agenda.
40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made…
It is not stated how many were with Jesus. Nevertheless, Martha had to prepare big-time. The Creator of the universe and the Savior of the world had just visited her home. She had to show hospitality.
Now, let’s talk about hospitality. In Genesis 18:1-8, we read Abraham showing hospitality to three visitors. Hospitality was important in the Jewish culture, because it say so much about the reputation of the host or hostess. Also, Romans 12:13 (and many other verses) urges us to show hospitality. So the question is, was it wrong for Martha to show hospitality?
Hospitality in itself is not bad. Nonetheless, it was a distraction for Martha. Martha was over-occupied and too busy. She was more concerned about the “preparations that had to be made” than her guest. She had problems with priorities. Consequently, she became furious and frustrated. She was stressed out. And if that wasn’t enough, look at what she did next.
40…She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Now she went to Jesus, not to join Mary and listen to Him teach, but to raise her voice and air out her frustration at Him. She just blew it. She had the opportunity of a lifetime. She could listen to the very words of Jesus. But she just lost it because of “all the preparations that had to be made.” Her misplaced priorities took a toll on her. It even led her to behave mindlessly.
41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things…
So Jesus rebuked Martha gently. Martha was worried and upset about the preparations. She was overly concerned about details (NLT).
42but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
How many things are needed? Answer: Just one! There is only one priority, a priority that precedes or comes before all things. And what is that? Mary had discovered that “one thing”, that “better” thing. And it is the habit of worship and meditation. It is abiding in Jesus’ words.
Reflecting in all these, we must ask ourselves the following: What are our priorities right now? Is time with Jesus and on His written word our priority in our exhaustive list of priorities? It is my prayer that we will learn from the example of Mary and from the mistake of Martha. Let’s give priority to Jesus and His written word, the Bible.