38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 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!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 NIV
The familiar story of Martha and Mary has taken me many places over the years. Today, I am examining through the lens of Wrath and Mercy. On occasion, I enjoy hosting friends and family in our home. As a wife and mother who has always worked outside the home, it is often a struggle to get things “just right” before everyone arrives. I also struggle with perfectionism, so I’m often exhausted and frazzled before the guests come through my front door. I want to be a gracious hostess and make everyone feel comfortable and welcome; however, after so much time in the kitchen, I often don’t have much appetite for the food I prepared, nor do I have any energy left to enjoy myself.
Of the two women mentioned in this story, it is not surprising that I relate to Martha. She was the eldest of the two sisters and likely the manager of the household. In biblical times, it was unusual for a woman to manage her own affairs as the head of the household and likely even more uncommon for a woman to invite a man into her home. Hosting Jesus was the fullest form of hospitality and involved substantial generosity. I can’t even imagine the preparations that had to be made, all the shopping lists and details that had to be organized leading up to such an event.
Martha was most certainly feeling exhausted from all the preparations. I totally understand her exasperation, anger, and maybe even some mild “wrath” towards Mary for not jumping up to help. Martha’s plea to Jesus to have him make Mary help her was likely accompanied by feelings of not being recognized by Jesus for all the work and details that went into planning for his arrival. Meanwhile, there goes Mary sitting there at the feet of their honored guest relaxing and fully taking in the discussion while Martha was running around like a chicken with her head cut off trying her hardest to make everything “just right.”
The traditional roles for women in those times would have been the domestic duties of cooking, cleaning, and keeping the house. It certainly would not have been common as a woman to sit at the feet of a rabbi and learn from him. In Martha’s desire to be the perfect hostess, she experienced very high anxiety, hard feelings toward her sister and even an outburst towards Jesus! Had Martha calmly gone to Jesus as Mary sat at his feet, he likely would have advised her and helped her work things out with her sister instead of rebuking her.
In the end, we know that Mary got it right. She correctly prioritized the importance of sitting at the feet of Christ. Mary was not being lazy; she was merely making the right decision at that particular time. From this perspective, Christ would rather have me sitting at his feet learning to live as a true disciple (Mary) before I go out into the world performing acts of service in his name (Martha).
The daily work that I do for the Lord is good and important. Scripture states that God has prepared good works for me to do (Ephesians 2:10), and I will one day be rewarded for them. However, my work and witness for Him must be balanced with having a deeply personal relationship with my Lord and Savior. Knowing Jesus as my savior means that I have been forgiven by him and that he will have mercy on me, a sinner.
Prayer: Lord, when I am upset, please help me control my emotions and never let my anger turn into wrath even when the house is a mess, homework isn’t done, and no one has a clue what’s for dinner. Help me to have patience with others even when I am tired or frustrated. Guide me in my spiritual walk so that I might sit at the feet of Christ immersing myself in His presence and ignoring all the other distractions. Help me to see that soaking in Your presence is indeed the "only one thing that is needed." Let me give the gift of mercy to others as Christ has given it unto me.
About Lora Ometz Lora Ometz and her husband, David, have been members of St. Thomas since 2000. Lora currently serves as a Liturgist at the 11 a.m. service but has served in many roles throughout the church since becoming a member. She enjoys family time, long walks, audiobooks, and all types of music. She is a pharmacist at Kaiser Permanente, but her favorite job is being a mother to Rachel and Daniel.