Daily Prayer :: Water

Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

January 11, 2019 — I am responsible first to how Jesus directs me.


'Christ in the House of Martha and Mary', Jan Vermeer van Delft, 1654

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary — Jan Vermeer van Delft, 1654

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Luke 10:38-42

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

More thoughts for meditation

In this famous story, Martha looks to Jesus to get her sister Mary to help with all the chores needed to provide for Jesus and the others gathered in her house to hear him teach. Mary is absorbed by Jesus’ teaching and doesn’t leave his side.  Martha is absorbed in the details of getting a big meal prepared.

Jesus’ statement to Martha is remarkable, not because of the sting Martha experiences when Jesus notes Mary’s choice is better. The comparison between Mary and Martha has been too often used. We’ll miss a significant element of Jesus’ interaction if we reduce the meaning to that. Jesus’ reply to Martha’s demand for fairness is remarkable because he offers Martha an entirely new way to view herself and surprises her by defying her expectation of fairness.  It’s important to remember the good that Martha brought to her house. She invites Jesus, after all, and is trying to carry out what she sees as her responsibilities as a result of her own invitation. She expects her sister Mary to help and argues that Mary is being unfair to her by sitting with Jesus.

Jesus wants Martha to see more deeply into the heart of his teaching.  See if this additional interpreation resonates with you. Jesus could have also been saying (and surely does to us today): “You are women, but you must not settle for old ways of viewing yourself and your role in the world. You must know that you, too, deserve a place within my company of followers where you can hear all I have to say. You are important. You are welcome to learn and grow along with everyone else. The responsibilities that once defined how your days would be spent can be set aside as you learn from me.”

Suggestions for action

Pray:  Set me free from my own narrow view of myself and what I can and cannot do. Help me live openly in Your presence and decide what to do by listening carefully to You rather than to my list of responsibilities and details that cause me to miss what You are doing.

Try using the breath prayer that Francis of Assisi used: “O God, who are You and who am I?” Say it slowly and repeatedly, opening your heart to God.

Consider how you accept responsibility. Do you mainly follow the demands of society or systems (like your family or work), or does Jesus get to direct you first, so other responsibilities can fall in behind primary direction?


  1. What if they both were focused on doing what they felt called to do? Maybe preparing the home was just as important as bring w Jesus? What if both were equally meditative? Reading this, my thoughts went to a few weeks back when I was living in an anger/frustration w my wife for not helping around the house on the same manner as I do. I fulfill more of a typical female role.,, we both work full time, but I am tasked with cooking and straightening up regularly, while my wife takes on extra-curricular work in the form of tutoring to help us make ends meet. I eventually cane to a realization that we support our home in different ways, and it only works because together everything gets accomplished. If we both focused on the same things, less would get accomplished. Reading this was sort of a confirmation of that, personally. Instead of condemning Martha for focusing on the home, maybe her work could be looked at as an expression of love, or even a vocation. Maybe her error was in not appreciating that she was given such a responsibility, and instead feeling like the doling out of duties was somehow unfair?

    • Thanks for engaging! I think you are answering the final question: “Does Jesus get to direct you first, so other responsibilities can fall in behind primary direction?” Things probably weren’t sorted out perfectly just between Mary and Martha, but with Jesus in the midst they found their center — or at least the Lord called them there.

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