On the southeastern slopes of the Mount of Olives, about 2 miles east of Jerusalem, lay the small village of Bethany, where lived three of Jesus’ most intimate friends: Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. Luke 10:38-42 records a visit that Jesus made to Bethany:
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Consider the valuable lesson in this story. Martha was apparently a diligent homemaker. We are reminded of another occasion when Jesus attended a supper in Bethany, and Martha served while Mary anointed Jesus with costly ointment (John 12:1ff.). Did Jesus mean to imply that what Martha was doing was a bad thing? Are not older women to teach the younger women to be “workers at home” (Titus 2:5)? Did not Paul urge younger women to “marry, bear children, guide [manage] the house” (1Tim 5:14)?
The point that Jesus was making is a very important one for us to understand and apply to our daily lives. It concerns priorities. As we mature spiritually we are expected to develop the ability to distinguish between good and evil (Heb. 5:14). It is important, though perhaps more difficult, for us to also learn to distinguish between good and better.
Mary recognized that a unique opportunity presented itself to her – to sit at the feet of the Son of God and learn from Him. In Jesus’ words, she chose the “good [better] part.” She recognized the priority of spiritual over material, of eternal over temporal.
Our lives are filled with such choices. Many things which are not evil per se make demands upon our time and attention that would be better directed to “better” things. It is admittedly not always easy to know how and when to make such judgments.
We should pray for the wisdom to avoid letting wholesome entertainment, hobbies, education, jobs, domestic duties, etc. distract us from “seeking FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt 6:33).