Most of us have heard the story of Mary and Martha. If you haven't you can read it here: Luke 10:38-42.
The story is about Martha getting upset with Mary because Mary is listening to Jesus instead of helping Martha in the kitchen. Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better thing.
Many people who have the gift of serving are hurt by this story. We need servers. It's a true blessing to be a server.
I don't think Jesus was saying that there is anything wrong with fixing a meal for your guests. The Bible tells us to be hospitable and food is a big part of that. I don't think he was saying that listening is better than serving. We need both.
Here's the thing, it says that Martha was distracted by all her preparations. And Jesus said to her, "You are worried about so many things."
This is how I picture it: Mary and Martha prepared a nice meal. Jesus arrived and Mary went out to sit with him. Martha was busy folding the napkins into swans, cutting the radishes into roses, and tucking garnish around the fish.
I always pictured myself as Mary because I'm not a super busy, bustling kind of person. I always prefer sitting. But when I realized what Jesus was saying to Martha I understood that too often I am she.
When I had people over, I wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted things to be pretty. I went to a lot of extra work just to impress people. I was worried about a lot of things. I felt anxious, irritable and unappreciated. Mostly, I worried about what people thought of me.
There is nothing wrong with hospitality. There is nothing wrong with making things pretty. But what is the reason?
I found that most of my preparations weren't about blessing; they were about impressing.
My company probably would have felt more relaxed if I were in the living room with them rather than banging around in the kitchen. I don't think they were extra blessed by my extra efforts to impress.
I suspect that may be what was going on with Martha, too. If all the extra things you do are for the right reasons and bring you joy, by all means, do them. But if they stress you out. If they make you feel pressured and worried, choose the better thing.
And while sitting at the feet of Jesus is always the better thing, maybe it wasn't just because He was Jesus--son of God-- but because he was simply a person.
Maybe, sitting with your guests and enjoying their presence is a better thing than hanging in the kitchen putting all the unnecessary touches on things.
It's easy to be distracted and worried about many things this time of year. Let's try to remember what really matters.
The better thing is relationship.