If you struggle with being Martha-esque — serving but frazzled, busy but missing out on what really matters — then it might be helpful to consider the contrast (read Part 1). Perhaps, like Martha, you get frustrated with those Marys. How can they ignore the work to be done (the work you’re knocking yourself out, to do)? How can they justify their choices — and why couldn’t you? I think it boils down to four basic principles, and they’re ones that other Scriptures elevate, as well.
The Spiritual Focus
Mary wasn’t alone in prioritizing spiritual food over the physical: Men like Job and David elevated spiritual hunger and thirst to their physical desires (Job 23:12, Psalm 42:1). Jesus also referred to God’s Truth as “living water” (John 4) and clearly elevated meeting spiritual needs over physical ones. (That didn’t mean that He didn’t realize that we humans have a physical need for food; he sometimes miraculously provided for that need among those gathered to hear Him speak and see Him perform miracles.)
While skipping meals regularly can certainly lead to health problems and temptations, do we think we need food and all kinds of other things more than we think we need Christ?
The Individual Attention
Even though we’d rather provide an elegant feast that would be talked about for years, sometimes we need to realize, like Mary, that those we invite into our homes are more important than the way we serve them. Spending one-on-one time can lead to unique opportunities for edification and true spiritual ministry. If taking time for that means making simpler meals and foregoing details we delight in perfecting, we need to be okay with that. People are more important, especially when we have those golden opportunities to interact with them on an individual basis.
The Guilt-Free Moments
Perhaps, like Martha, you have a certain meal or way of serving in mind, and you simply can’t let it go. Sure, it means skimping on your time with God or others, but you just couldn’t live with yourself if you didn’t do all you’ve imagined wanting to do. There’s a term for that, and it’s called false guilt. The Enemy of our Souls loves to accuse us and make us feel guilty when we’ve committed no sin (Revelations 12:10). Sometimes we create our own list of “rules” or “works” we feel like we need to complete in order to feel at peace with life, but that is not God’s way (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
The Humble Realization
Mary realized that more than she needed to please her sister or impress the Lord, she needed to sit at His feet. That was the really important thing, and she prioritized rightly. She had to realize that she needed His presence in her life. Martha was in the same boat; she just didn’t realize or admit it. When we’re honest about our own spiritual needs and our need for community, we’re willing to do the hard work of prioritizing God and others in our lives.