I’ve always felt a little conflicted about the story of Mary and Martha. The principle is simple enough: don’t let less important things distract you from focusing on the Savior. But in practice, this principle is particularly hard because we are mortal and physical and material. Someone must clean the dishes and make the food, wash the clothes etc. and often that person is the mom. So, the story of Mary and Martha felt a little like injustice.
But this morning, as we read their story again for scripture study, something clicked.
It wasn’t the act of serving that Christ was chastising Martha for, it was her attitude, her emotional state. Martha was “cumbered about.” She was probably stressed. I can relate to this feeling. Though motivated by good intentions to make her guests feel comfortable, things may have spiraled into anxiety.
Seen this way, Jesus’ admonition is not rebuke, it’s comfort. “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things” slow down! focus, let the superfluous slide “But one thing is needful.” Jesus was urging her to simplify, to slow down her frantic hostessing and listen to his voice.
“My dear brothers and sisters, we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most. Let us be mindful of the foundational precepts our Heavenly Father has given to His children that will establish the basis of a rich and fruitful mortal life with promises of eternal happiness. They will teach us to do “all these things … in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that [we] should run faster than [we have] strength. [But] it is expedient that [we] should be diligent, [and] thereby … win the prize.”
“Brothers and sisters, diligently doing the things that matter most will lead us to the Savior of the world. That is why “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ,… that [we] may know to what source [we] may look for a remission of [our] sins.” In the complexity, confusion, and rush of modern living, this is the “more excellent way.”
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Of Things That Matter Most, Ensign Magazine November 2010