I’ve always had problems with the infamous Mary/Martha story in the New Testament. I understand that Martha was in the wrong for fussing at her sister. But I have a hard time with accepting all the criticism that gets laid on her shoulders, and with understanding why exactly Mary had chosen “what is better.”
I feel for Martha because I am a server myself -- a take charge, what needs to be done, let’s do it, kind of girl. And I think we need people like Martha -- who are concerned with preparations, and who set the stage and empower others to just sit and listen.
But recently I looked at this story through a different lens, and it opened a whole new thought for me.
Gary Chapmen pioneered this fantastic theory of the five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. In this story, I honestly believe that Martha was functioning from her love language -- Acts of Service. (Granted, she got a little flustered, and so was not operating perfectly. But I can’t fault her just for being human.) I can relate to this love language. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I feel re-charged and re-invigorated when I get a chance to serve. It’s not a drain. Rather, it’s an act of love.
But here’s the revelation: love languages aren’t just about us. They’re also about the person we love. Maybe Jesus is cluing Martha into the fact that Mary recognized what He needed—Quality Time.
Jesus was fully God, right? The same God that chose to speak to Elijah in a gentle whisper and not the wind, earthquake, or fire? I remember hearing a sermon that pointed out that we would love to hear God’s voice in the earthquake. We want him to shout over the cacophony of our lives and get our attention. But that’s not how it works. We have to take time to “be still and know” – God wants to speak to us through quality time.
It’s an amazing thought that Jesus was simply craving some quality time with the people he loved. Mary recognized it, maybe because quality time was her primary love language. And I can certainly digest (and be challenged by) the thought of Jesus pointing out Mary’s better choice because she was recognizing that it wasn’t about her…it was about Him, and what He needed at that moment.