September 26, 2006

Martha of Bethany

Luke 10:38-42 has come to be known as the passage that provides women with 2 role models to choose from: Mary or Martha. Many womens groups and societies within the church depend on this perceived dichotomy, believing that as long as they aren't imposing their preferences on each other, this schizophrenia can be honored. But let's look at the text:

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Clearly, Martha did welcome Jesus into her home, an action necessary to facilitate the the learning situation for Mary...but it was not just for Mary. I hesitate to suggest that the welcoming of Jesus into her home was predicated upon Martha having the gift of hospitality. I am not even sure we can say she had that gift considering that it served as a distraction to what Jesus described as "the good part." In a fallen world, it's true that our gifts and talents can be used in ways that do not benefit the Kingdom, but I don't believe we can look at this text and conclude definitely that Martha had the gift of hospitality.

We even see in John 11 that Martha has been experiencing the renewing of her mind as she converses with Jesus on the death of her brother, Lazarus.

Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11:21-27

This Martha, able to articulate a clear understanding of the resurrection and a biblical christology, is not the Martha of Luke 10. Truly, she has experienced a renewing of the mind. The content of her faith has been elevated to a place of importance that it has not known previously.

Hospitality should not be an end unto itself, but should always be for the purpose of bringing people into a closer relationship with God.

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