The Better Part

Luke 10:38   Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.  39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.  40 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.”  41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;  42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”


This story has often been used to contrast the behaviors of Mary and Martha, making one seem to be in the right, and the other not. That does not seem to be the point that Jesus is making. It was an important ministry to prepare food and feed Jesus and the group of travelers with him. Jesus often speaks of showing hospitality, and he feeds the 5000, so what Martha is doing is not wrong. Some commentators would argue that Martha was showing greater devotion by all of her careful preparation. The only problem was that her devotion to him may have allowed her to become distracted from the better part. It’s a theological message which is given through this story. The service to the body which is being performed by Martha is necessary, but transitory. The better part is that which is eternal. Living in the already and the not-yet of the kingdom of  God, she is to find balance and not over-extend in one area over the other. 


This illustration from Mary and Martha is played out on the church front. Some argue that the church should be engaged in the physical needs of the day. Jesus is saying “Yes!” that is vitally important because we live in the “already” and “not yet” of the kingdom of God. The “already” means that we have to focus on the daily needs which confront us. We have the hungry to feed, the naked to be clothed, the addict to be set free! At the same time, if we do not find balance, and we allow service in the “already” of the kingdom to consume us so that we don’t spend time in the “not yet” of the mystery of the kingdom, we will miss out on the better part. It’s not one or the other, it’s a balance of both.


Lord, may you lead me to find that place of balance in my life.  Amen.


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