Luke 10:38-42 HCSB
Hospitality is a lost art these days. Many women do not serve meals for their own families, much less for anyone else. In our busy lives, we have forgotten what it means to truly get to know people. We have substituted the lives of fictional television characters for friends. Mary and Martha remind me of what true hospitality is and what we can gain from sharing our homes with others. Even though these were not perfect women, they did not let their shortcomings keep them from gaining the blessing of relationships.
The story begins with Mary and Martha welcoming Jesus into their home. Martha is the initiator. “While they were traveling, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home” (Luke 10:38). Martha, the industrious one, took the first step in leading the way to meet the needs of the travelers. However, once she began her preparations, which was no small task in those days, she lost her focus. She was attempting the impossible – trying to create the perfect meal for the perfect guests.
If that was not enough stress, she also got angry with her sister, Mary, for not helping her. What was Mary doing? She was seated at the feet of Jesus soaking in His every word. “She (Martha) had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said” (Luke 10:39).
Finally Martha could stand it no more and asked Jesus to set Mary straight. “But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, ‘Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand’” (Luke 10:40). Martha, expecting Jesus to support her, was surprised at His words of gentle rebuke. “The Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
What does this passage teach me? First, I learn that taking the initiative to share our homes with others is a good thing! Martha got this part right! Fortunately, I have two aunts who modeled hospitality for me regularly. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of family gatherings where my aunts either cooked for us or coordinated the potluck meal we were to share. There is a special connection you gain from being in a person’s home. Even the dinners we ate together at a restaurant were fun. They still communicated that someone cared enough to take the initiative to spend time together.
I have the same feelings of fondness for the friends I have shared my life with over the years. None of this would have happened if we had not made the effort to share our lives with each other.
The second concept I learn from this passage is the problem of getting too worried about the externals. Many times when I have had guests over to my home, I have fallen into this trap. I am so worried about the meal and the house, I forget about the guests! Jesus did not rebuke Martha for her hard work. He rebuked her for losing her focus. Mary gets this part right. She understood that the most important thing was the people, not the food! I help myself stay focused on people by making a realistic plan, both in the number of guests and in the food. I am not a gourmet cook, so I keep it simple. I have found that most foods are tasty and good. The key is keeping the food fresh, and keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Sometimes, I even order food from a local restaurant and serve it family style, or just have someone over for coffee or tea. When I make my plans, I plan foods that can be prepared ahead of time. My crock-pot is especially helpful; it keeps the food nice and hot without over cooking.
Hospitality takes practice, but it is worth the effort. I start with my family and then add others. My motto from this story is to be industrious Martha before the guests arrive and be relational Mary after they arrive. Jesus reminds us – people are the priority.
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