“As they went on their way, he entered into a certain village, and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. he had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she came up to him, and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister left me to serve alone? Ask her therefore to help me.”
Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
We have reached that time of year when there is a mad rush to purchase things for those we love, and for ourselves. It’s a time of sentimentality and good will that sometimes may get lost in mass consumerism and commercialism.
In the past there were moments where I find myself getting caught up in gift giving aspect of the holiday. Each year, I will tell myself that this year, I will focus more. Thinking about it now, in the quietness of this moment, I can see the symbolism in the season and its reflection in everyday life.
I can see this as Mary sit’s at Jesus feet hanging on his every word, while Martha complains about the chores of life. I can relate to the lives of Jacob and Esau, each vying for attention. These are the stories in the Bible, that for me, tie into our two natures. Our desire for the physical worldly wants is at a constant battle with our spiritual otherworldly desires.
In Genesis, we find Jacob and Esau locked in a struggle from the moment they were conceived, vying to be the firstborn. As they grow, we see Jacob become a man who favors staying at home and studying. He values his parent’s approval and works towards receiving blessings. Esau, on the other hand, is a man who is into nature and the natural world. He is a hunter and not concerned with studying who will give up his blessing for a helping of “the red stuff” as he calls the lentil soup that Jacob has made.
With Jacob symbolizing the spiritual and Esau the worldly, the ancient Hebrews show that there is a battle between the two. We are told that God loves Jacob, but hates Esau, meaning Adonai desires spiritual lives based on love instead of a life of selfishness that changes from one moment to the next without being consumed.
Thousands of years later, we see this story played out again at the feet of Jesus. Mary has chosen the spiritual path, while Martha is intent on worldly things. Jesus needs to remind Martha that Mary has chosen the better path.
After thinking about all these things, a memory from a Christmas special that I watched on television as a young man comes back to me. Garfield, a rather selfish orange cat, spent Christmas at his owners’ parents along with his dog friend Odie. Along the way Garfield finds stuff in the garage to make gifts to give to everyone and comes across a stack of love letters written to Grandma by her deceased husband when they were younger. On Christmas morning Garfield gives out the gifts and Grandma is very touched by
the gift. The show ends with Garfield proclaiming that Christmas isn’t about the giving or the getting. It is about the loving.
This leaves me concluding that Esau vs Jacob, Martha vs. Mary, Worldly vs Spiritual is going to be an ever-present problem in my life. One will never conquer the other. I will have to live with both, they are relatives after all. On my journey though, I will need to follow the words Jesus spoke to Martha and choose the better path. I need to choose to nurture my spiritual side more, I need to choose thinking about my neighbor instead of myself. I need to choose love.