Martha of Bethany: running a tight ship

Why does Martha of Bethany get such a bad rap? Because she’s so organized? Because she ran such a tight ship? One night when the disciples and Mary were crammed into that little Bethany house and Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening, Martha complained to Jesus.

“Tell my sister to help me, Lord!”

And then Jesus said those famous words: “Mary has chosen the better part.”

Maybe. All I know is that Jesus and his buddies wouldn’t have been at the little house if it weren’t for Martha. No doubt there was good food, places for Jesus and the others to lay their heads, perhaps some music and certainly laughter.

In those days people would eat lying down, on their sides. So picture this: a small house, filled with men standing, sitting and lying down, ready to eat. Men who had been on the road for some time. Men who fished for a living. Men who just might have smelled like fish, given the miles they covered on foot. No wonder the poor woman asked for help.

So how to reconcile Jesus’ words? Was Martha supposed to just drop everything and let the soup boil over? I don’t think so.

Maybe it was about balance. Maybe everything didn’t have to be perfect. But maybe this story also says something about where Jesus was — that he needed soul company, and that’s what Mary provided. Jesus also knew that Martha, at least that day, wasn’t tending to her soul — and he cared more about her soul than he did about dinner.

Luke 10:38-42

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