As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the LORD's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "LORD, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the LORD answered, "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" (Luke 10:38-42 NIV).
Martha, like Mary, had a choice to make a value judgement between what was necessary in the kitchen and what is absolutely essential in the living room. She became confused about what true devotion looked like.
This passage raises the following question: How do we determine the greater purpose in our lives when we are saturated with pressing priorities?
Everything that is a priority is not equal to everything that is purposeful in the moment. Priorities that pull us from our purpose become spiritual distractions. Priorities were distracting Martha. Even though the priorities in the kitchen were pressing, Jesus’ response implies that Mary had remained seated in the higher purpose.
Here Jesus warns against priorities that become distractions until we forget to remain centered in God’s purpose.
Jesus wasn’t in the house to eat or enjoy a meal. He was there to shine a light, and that light was in the living room, not the kitchen. Jesus wanted to light purpose in Martha and Mary, but Martha let wood gathering become stronger than fire starting.
The kitchen was not all about Jesus for Martha, and we see that when she comes out of the kitchen. Martha’s disappointment in Mary shows us that the kitchen turned out to be nothing more than a busy offering to calm the distractions swelling inside of her.
It is important that we can separate our purpose and our priorities, even when those priorities are deeply spiritual. Every one of us lives with these tensions and pressing priorities, and these priorities can be good, healthy, and even spiritual. However, they can create a distraction from our purpose.
Martha should have discerned that if being in the kitchen caused her to become angry, even though Jesus was in the living room, then something is wrong.
We cannot be mad because someone else is in their purpose and we are stuck in our priorities. It is important that we never define our purpose by comparing ourselves to what is a priority to other people. We will never discover our purpose by comparing what we are thinking or doing with what someone else is doing or what someone else has. When we discern what is our purpose, we can do no greater harm than trying to compare our purpose to someone else’s.
It is impossible to be where God wants us to be if we are angry, distracted, or anxious. Our emotional state will reflect where we are in the Lord. Our tasks and responsibilities will become rewarding and fulfilling when we are flowing in purpose and not just focusing on the completion of our tasks and priorities.