Not long after the feeding of the thousands, Jesus and his disciples arrive at the home of the sisters Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Martha is clearly the one who invites Jesus into her home. As any host might, Martha undertakes the preparations, possibly for a meeting, but more likely for a meal. But, she makes the mistake many of us make; she overdoes the menu, fussing over the preparations to such a degree that she is unable to attend to the conversation of her guests. As a result, she is not fully present to Jesus and her resentment towards her sister, Mary, who is listening at Jesus’ feet, builds and festers.
Our meal hospitality too easily goes awry when undertaken with the wrong motives. True hospitality should function to unite people, and should be guest-focused. But, Martha is divisive and self-absorbed when she interrupts Jesus by entreating him to make Mary get up and help. Selfish hospitality is always about the host. “See how beautiful I’ve made my home. See what wonderful dishes I’ve prepared for you to enjoy. See how hard I’ve worked to get everything ready. See how good I am, and how much you should thank me, and how well you should think of me.”
Martha is worried and agitated by her attempts to provide the best possible experience for her guests. Jesus gently reprimands Martha for missing what Mary has discovered: there is only one thing necessary, and that is to sit at God’s feet and listen. This is the best food, the choicest portion. Recall that in Jesus’ day, the highest-status diners were often given the best portion. So, while Mary feasts, Martha chokes because of a prideful inability to deny herself the desire that her service be publicly noticed and lauded.
The lessons for us are threefold:
- First, simplicity is the wisest path: we must not let grand motives undermine our full participation in and enjoyment of the meal process, because discipleship at the feet of Jesus requires our active presence.
- Second, even when we invite others into our home for a meal, Jesus is the true host.
- Lastly, our meal hospitality must be centered on the guest(s) and their interaction with the gospel of Jesus Christ; we must never selfishly divert attention away from Christ to ourselves.
A Personal Note: With summer nearly here, and an urgent need to watch over an ailing parent, I am scaling back these posts to 1x/week until autumn. Please keep reading! If you have fallen behind, each post is numbered, so you can start back where you left off. With several hundred followers of the blog, we are reaching a wonderful threshold for discipleship across our individual churches! PLEASE SHARE with your own church friends and family.
~Julie A.P. Walton, Ph.D.
Featured image: Google Images, aliuf6.jpg