“Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
What usually happens when this passage is discussed is that the speaker or writer immediately comes to the defense of Martha. Some point out that she was a saint (which she was), and others note that she was simply seeking to serve Jesus (which she was). I can’t know the individual motivations behind this tendency, but, regardless, the softening of Martha’s error in judgment runs contrary to what the Holy Spirit is working to reveal to us here.
We know that Martha is a good and holy woman, who is doing a good thing in her desire to serve Christ. Yet Jesus’ rebuke in this passage is harsh — which should not cause us to recoil, but instead inspire us to lean in and pay close attention.
Imagine yourself in Martha’s shoes, rushing around to care for Jesus with diligence and love. Christ knew the inner workings of her heart. He knew her desires, intent and concerns. He had the opportunity to honor her efforts, but he didn’t; quite the opposite.