As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. 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!’
41 ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’
Teresa of Avila commented:
“Believe me, Martha and Mary must join together in order to show hospitality to the Lord and have him always present and not host him badly by failing to give him something to eat. How would Mary, always seated at his feet, provide him with food if her sister did not help her? His food is that in every way possible we draw souls that they may be saved and praise him always”
Really, Mary and Martha belong together in the service of the Lord.
We are regularly tempted to ‘put asunder’ things ‘God has joined together.’
The above quote resonates with this other, longer quotation from Michael Martin on the most effective people in the world.:
“To really get things done in the world, we’re told, we need men and women of action. Modern Christianity has bought into this idea. Much of medieval Christianity, too, affirmed the dichotomy between “contemplation” and “service”; it just valued the former over the latter. Religious orders that had a charism of “contemplation” were thought to be following the example of Mary over Martha, choosing “the better part” (Luke 10:38–42).
But there are clues that this polarised way of understanding the Christian life is wrong. Some of those clues lie in the text of the New Testament itself. The Lord withdrew to pray before his great works: before the calling of the disciples and the Sermon on the Mount, before walking on the sea, before his Passion. Other clues lie in the lives of those who took Christ as their template, who sought to follow him with their whole selves.”
All effective Christian service flows from being at the feet of Jesus; from being with the Father in intimate, prayerful fellowship. Martha’s activism is needed, but frenetic work which does not flow from Union with Jesus, the Living Vine, is ultimately futile. Andrew Murray put this so well:
‘Do not confound work and fruit. There may be a good deal of work for Christ that is not the fruit of the Heavenly Vine.’