It isn’t always easy to do the right thing. So, naturally, we like some positive recognition when we do. After all, we have sacrificed ourselves in order to do the right thing, the good thing.
Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus of the Bible, always did the right thing, especially compared to her sister, who was well known for having “lived a sinful life” (Luke 7:37). All her life, Martha had done what was right and good and proper.
The story in Luke 10:38-42 tells of the time that Martha invited Jesus to her house. Martha had lived a life that she felt would have made Jesus proud and this was her moment for positive recognition. But, while her sinful sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to hear Him talk, Martha was left to serve Jesus and do other household duties alone.
Feeling perhaps a bit resentful—after all, she deserved to be recognized by Jesus—Martha approaches Jesus and asks Him if He doesn’t care that she has to do all the work alone, she asks Jesus to make Mary help her.
Because Martha had chosen to worry about her earthly responsibilities, she was missing out on all the great things Jesus was teaching. By earthly standards, Mary was in the wrong for not doing what she was supposed to be doing: serving the guest in her home. But, by Jesus’ standards, she was doing exactly what she needed to do: seeking a relationship with Him. Martha was fulfilling her earthly role, but that’s not what Jesus was asking of her. The dishes would be there tomorrow, but Jesus wouldn’t.
One Thing is Needed
So, when Martha complained to Jesus about Mary’s choice to not help her, He taught her that the most important thing was what Mary was doing: listening to Him. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41,42).
Without a relationship with Jesus, all that we do is worthless. All the good we do will be taken away by our sinful nature, but nothing beyond our control can steal our relationship with Christ. Jesus requires abandonment of all things of this world, including our sins and our worries, and He wants us to just sit at His feet and listen.
I remember my senior year of high school when I acted like Martha nearly every day. I worked so hard to get closer to Jesus, did all the things that I thought He wanted me to do, and received no blessing. And yet, some boys in my class, which I knew for a fact didn’t always do the right thing, sat at Jesus’ feet learning while I did all the work that was needed. It wasn’t fair. They were openly sinful, and Jesus openly accepted them at His feet while I sought His approval in the kitchen.
When I complained to Jesus, He told me what He told Martha. “Raquel, Raquel, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and they have chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from them.”