In the Bible stories of two particular women, and two particular men, we see the love and broad acceptance that God has for His children, as well as an indication of God’s priorities.
In Luke 10:38-42, and in chapter 11 and the first eight verses of chapter 12 of John’s gospel, we read about Mary and Martha.
Martha was the well-established, dutiful sister. She owned a home ( Luke 10:38), and she had a ministry of hospitality ( Luke 10:40 and John 12:2). Like many who serve diligently, she was a little put out by her sister, Mary, who simply “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said.” ( Luke 10:39-40).
Mary was also the woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair ( John 12:3).
It has often been pointed out, and it is important to do so, that Jesus commended Mary for choosing “the one thing that is needed” ( Luke 10:42) – to pay attention to Him, to listen to Him, and to sacrifice our best for Him.
However, it has to be seen that, while Jesus found it necessary to remind Martha of this priority ( Luke 10:41-42), He never questioned her faith. In fact, Scripture records that it was Martha who had a revelation that Jesus was the Messiah ( John 11:25-27) – a blessing that was also given to Peter ( Matt 16:15-17 ). Also, Martha is numbered among the few people that the Bible specifically identifies as individuals that “Jesus loved” ( John 11:5) which certainly honours her.
The Christian who has the gift of helping, or administration, or hospitality, need not feel that they are lesser spiritual people than those who are called, say, to lead worship or work miracles. But we all need reminding of the priority to focus on Jesus and to listen to Him.
With this in mind, we can read Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. The story is well known, but worth re-reading.
When the wayward son turns back to the father, the father runs to meet him, accepts him completely and throws a celebration. What a revelation of God’s love for the lost and repentant!
But we also see the older son, complaining that he feels overlooked, despite being faithful and dutiful. The father reminds him of the need to celebrate over the return of the lost – to forgive, to accept and to rejoice – but the father also doesn’t fail to tell the loyal son: “Everything I have is yours.” ( Luke 15:31).
We serve a God who will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you help His people ( Heb 6:10 ).