Thursday, July 3, 2008
Martha and Mary
For me, the story of Mary and Martha lands squarely in the middle of the main point of tension in the church today. Martha, is the activist, who’s motto is, Don’t just stand there do something.
Mary, on the other hand, more contemplative than her sister, counters with, Don’t just do something, stand there. Church boards, Sunday school classes, or groups gathered to consider the next big thing, bump heads on this issue. In the past, contemplative types have retreated from the world, and built sanctuaries in the desert to eliminate distraction so they could spend their days considering the eternal. Conscientious go getters have rallied like minded folk and taken off for the ghetto, eager to repair a broken world. The type A personality wants to get things done while the type B wants to think about them, consider options, and examine possibilities before taking a first, hesitant step. In this story, Mary seems to get a pat on the back for her lack of action. She’s done nothing to help her sister, choosing instead to sit at the feet of the Master and listen. Jesus said of her, "she has chosen what is better."
Is he encouraging thought over deed? Inaction over action? In a time and place where hospitality was an art form, ("Simon you neither greeted me with a kiss or provided water for my feet," Luke 7:44) shouldn’t Martha have gotten a little praise. ("Nice looking pound cake Martha, take a break and listen to this.")
Of course, we should find a balance. Journey in and journey out. Trust God and work.
But woe to the Mary who finds herself in a church filled with Marthas.