What's Better

by - May 20, 2011

Mary and Martha come to mind when I think about all that the modern American woman is committed to and responsible for. You know the ones. Mary, the spiritual one at Jesus' feet, the one who saw past the trappings of this world, and was wise and chose well. Then there's Martha, the other one, whom we scorn for getting it wrong, for being worldly and petty.

When I consider this passage, I always want to be Mary and never Martha. I'd like nothing better than to be at Jesus' feet and super spiritual all the time, but someone has to mop the floor, after all. And this time, when I thought of Mary and Martha and their contrasting deeds, it was the first time I didn't crown Mary with a halo and give Martha a swift "Tsk, tsk," with a wagging finger at her nose, looking down mine.

This time, I noticed that her work was necessary. Maintaining a home, caring for my family's physical and emotional well being are godly pursuits. So are many of the other things we do as women: tend the garden, prepare healthy meals, entertain guests, be a good neighbor and friend, earn a living. What would Jesus think if Mary and Martha had made no preparation for his visit, had in fact been inhospitable? How would Jesus feel had they not made their house a home, nor availed themselves to their friend?

This time I saw what I never noticed before:  when Jesus corrected Martha. He didn't do it when he entered the door. He didn't do it just before he started doing "spiritual" things to stop her from doing the "earthly." He only corrected her when she became a tattle-tale and began to compete and compare. It was at that precise moment that Jesus asked Martha to check her priorities  — when her work stopped being an avenue to serve others and became an opportunity for self-centeredness and self-pity.

The contrast between Mary and Martha is not in their work, but in their hearts. This tells me there's nothing innately wrong with the tasks on my To Do List. What's wrong is when I allow those tasks to get the better of me.

Then and only then, Jesus takes me by the heart and says, "Dawn, choose what's better — Me and my way." I see now that I can choose what's better in either kind of work, whether I'm teaching Sunday school or grocery shopping. There are no train compartments labeled "Earthly" and "Spiritual." There is only that which is done for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

In the end, it's not about my expectations, my stilettos, my combat boots, or even my feet. It's always been, and will always be, about His feet, and that my heart be always there.


If you'd like to read the whole series:
A Desperate Housewife
Battle Cry
Marching Orders
What's Better

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  1. Thank you for this. I have a twin sister. My first name is Mary and her's is Martha ....my dad always quoted the Mary/Martha verse to us. I felt bad for her ...and she felt bad too. I think in the end she has/had the Mary heart. I would love to have Martha's energy and Mary's heart. I think that is what Jesus was saying...ultimately you have to choose to have the right motivation ...whatever you do ... do all to the glory of God.

  2. Susan, I forgot that you and your twin were Mary and Martha. I think we all have both twins resident within, both the earthly and spiritual deeds, as well as the heart in tune and not in tune with the Lord.

  3. wow. you just discovered a truth no one else has ever said
    and which has rankled me. why is martha always the bad
    guy, when she provided the meal, etc.? you nailed it: her
    heart was full of self pity. ouch. i'm much more guilty of
    that than 'martha-ing' around the house.

    it is an honor to call you a friend, mary.


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