(Hint: try the kitchen then the lounge-room.)
The last few days had been harrowing. Their brother deteriorated slowly and painfully. In his final hours he struggled to breathe and was in obvious agony trying. Their only hope refused to help. His final minutes were unbearable and even more unbearable to watch.
Four days after Lazarus had died and been buried, Jesus finally arrived. Of the two confused and grieving sisters, it was Martha who went out to meet the arriving Jesus. Only months before Jesus had been the dinner guest of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. At this dinner Martha had been rebuked and this rebuke was public and, to add to her potential humiliation, recorded in the sacred annuls of Scripture for the entire world read of.
¶ Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."
Please don't think that I am being dim, but what did that rebuke sound like? You may look at me quizically and read these verses to me again. But all you'd be doing is telling me what words Jesus used not, how they were used. Words are an important component of communication - but they are still only a component. When you've been publicly rebuked what did it sound like to you? There is the highest possiblity that when Jesus appeared to rebuke Martha for being pre-occupied with the necessities of life, it had a deeply therepeutic effect upon her. The major clue that this was the case is her greeting of her Rebuker-Saviour when arrived "late" to attend to her brother Lazarus recorded in John 11.
But I sincerely doubt that Jesus was rebuking Martha for being concerned about food preparation more than Bible teaching. The rebuke seems to be for her more-or-less accusing her sister Mary of wasting time. Mary, we read in the above passage, was transfixed on what Jesus was teaching her, rather than being in the kitchen with Martha. Some overly practical bods have lept to Martha's defence at this point and pointed to other people who were commended for their practical mindedness. But this misses the point. Jesus wasn't rebuking Martha because she was bearing her responsibilities as a hostess - Jesus is not against being responsible or practical - rather, His rebuke was about misplaced priorities and unwarranted judgmentalism.
We now live in an age where it is the easiest it has ever been in human history to be distracted from preserving divinely warranted priorities. For example, I now mostly read my Bible on my iPad. But my iPad is a perpetual source of temptation away from my spiritual disciplines because the same iPad which has the world's most powerful Bible software also has Email, Twitter, Facebook and world news. None of these things are wrong, but if they become a higher priority than spending time in prayerful Bible reading, they become wrong.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.Matthew 6:33
Even though we are a tech-friendly church, this is not our priority as a church. The story of Mary and Martha is a timely reminder for us not to be so caught up in the practical matters of life at the price of being in the wrong room of the house when Jesus is our guest. And even as a church, with all our valuable activities and programs, we must know which room Christ is in. There are times when Christ is in the dining room - not dining, but washing feet! There are times when Jesus is in the "kitchen" preparing to feed 5,000. The issue for us is not about getting a 'balance' between spiritual and practical matters, rather we must see all that we do as a spiritual activity - even if it is preparing a meal for Christ 'in the kitchen' -
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'
Matthew 25:35 - 40
- or in the 'lounge-room', in the midst of the congregation lifting our hands in songful worship. Everything we do should not only be for Christ, it should be with Christ - where He is. Which room is Christ in, in your life - and are you in that same room like Mary was when Jesus came to her home?