Mary and Martha - such a simple scripture yet so frequently found 'difficult'!

The Mary and Martha scripture is one which many people frequently find difficult to understand.  I was one of those people, until I heard a good sermon about it which was explained in a way that was easy to grasp.  Here is the Bible reading below:

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

Many people find it very easy to identify themselves with Martha in this scripture. After all, if Jesus came to your house, you would want to care for him, right?  It seems that Martha was busying herself with preparing food and drink (this would have had to be from scratch - no fridge/freezers or easy-to-prepare foods back then!)  Showing hospitality in this way was important and still is today.  No wonder so many of us identify ourselves with Martha, wanting to care for our guests.
Now stop and think.  If Jesus really came to your house, yes of course you would want to show him hospitality and make him welcome.  However, as the Son of God, he is going to have a lot of words of wisdom in him.  Surely you would want to hear these too?  Well, that is the crux of the scripture.  If YOU had to choose between ministering to Jesus OR hearing what he has to say, what would you do? This scripture makes it very clear that the better choice of the two is to listen to Jesus.
How to apply this in everyday life? The sermon I heard that made the most sense went something like this: Mostly, you would hopefully spend some time doing good works and some time learning about God and Jesus.  However, at certain times/instances/occasions, you will have to choose between ministering and learning because they clash.  In that instance, you should choose learning.  I'm not advocating we ignore a neighbor's true emergency because we are busy with God in prayer, but simply that we employ discernment to recognize occasions as they come up when we should put aside (or vastly simplify) even our 'good' tasks in order to be with God and Jesus. 
So, speaking from the point of view of someone who used to never understand this scripture but who now does, the take-home message is that we should seek to understand where God wants our attention to be at any particular time.  It may not be where you (or others) think it should be!

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