This passage is brief but the purpose is clear. Jesus was not dissatisfied with the fact that Martha was focused on serving, He was not angry that she was moving towards good works. I think He was frustrated with two things: her priorities and her perspective. Martha was so wrapped up in the tasks that she saw before her that when Jesus was sitting in her home, she would not stop to sit at His feet. Her priorities had become the task rather than who the task was for. And this state of priority informed her perspective: because she was so focused on the work to be done, she became frustrated at her sister because Mary sitting at Jesus' feet impeded what she viewed to be the priority. Jesus responds to her saying "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (v 41-42).
Like I said, Jesus was not dissatisfied with the fact that Martha desired to do good - but He cared about her heart and where her heart was rooted. Martha had become so caught up in serving that she had lost sight of the purpose behind her actions. Matthew 6:33 says "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Jesus wants relationship with us first, He wants our surrender first, He wants our hearts first. He desires for the works that we sow into to be done out of the overflow of us being rooted and established in him. And in order to get there, we have to sit at His feet. Mary chose to seek him first, she saw the opportunity to sit at Jesus' feet and seek His wisdom and she took it. This does not mean that Mary stayed there and never did any good works - but she had healthy perspective: she knew the value of spending time with Jesus. Her priority was knowing who she was serving before she stepped out in action. John 15:5 says "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." Jesus desires us to remain in Him, to recognize that apart from Him we cannot bear fruit, that we cannot accomplish anything for His kingdom. But, if our focus is on Him, if our perspective becomes 'apart from Him I can do nothing,' if our priority is knowing our Savior first, then we can do all things THROUGH him who strengthens us (Phil 4:13).
So how does this apply to you? Look at your life: think about the things you prioritize. What do you put before positioning yourself at the Father's feet? It is really easy to get caught up in 'doing' - I know for me, it is especially easy for me to think: Well I need to make sure I finish off my to do list, I need to make sure that I lead my small group well, I need to be faithful to the commitments I have made. These things are all true, and often times the things I am being faithful to are what God has called me to do. But - He wants us to be rooted because He knows that we can't do it without Him. He knows that "indeed only one" thing is needed - and that is Him. If we are able to shift our perspective to believing that God is in control, that He is the source, that apart from Him we can do nothing - then our priorities will shift as well. And it will be easy to prioritize sitting at the Father's feet before we go out to be faithful to all that He has called us to do.
God, thank you that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. God, remind me that apart from you I can do nothing. Shift my perspective. Lord, I pray that you would change my heart and give me the heart of Mary, that you would bring me to a place where I seek to know you first and serve you out of a place of knowing you deeply. I need your help to change my mindset! Thank you that you come to my aide in a time of need! Amen.
- Megan McGarrah