Martha and The Good Samaritan

This past week I finished preaching a series in Luke 10:25-42 called "Mission: Next Door."

The story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) doesn't normally get connected to the story about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), which I think is a shame. If the story of Mary and Martha isn't connected to the Good Samaritan, it's a weird story to have sandwiched in between accounts of Jesus teaching His disciples what it looks like to follow Him.

But when you look at the two stories closely, I think you find that they are connected. Luke tells the story about Martha and Mary to illustrate the flip-side of what he illustrates in the story of the Good Samaritan.

The section starts with an expert in the Law and his description of the Great Commandment (to love the Lord God with all you are and to love your neighbor as yourself). But he's obviously a guy who isn't keeping the Great Commandment. He thinks he's loving the Lord His God, but knows there's a problem with loving his neighbor as himself. So, he asks Jesus to clarify; to narrow the focus of "neighbor" so the man can be sure to comply.

In response, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan in which he specifically highlights two of the Jewish Elite who busily walked by a wounded man on their way to or from the Temple in Jerusalem. They puffed their chests out, no doubt thinking they were loving the Lord their God with all their heart. In reality, they were too holy to get messy and Jesus showed that their unwillingness to love their neighbor demonstrated they weren't really loving the Lord their God either. The Good Samaritan story illustrates for Jesus-followers what happens when we separated the command to love God from the command to love our neighbor.

The Martha and Mary story illustrates the flip side. Martha has sacrificed her entire day to prepare a meal for Jesus (and probably for the 84+ friends who were traveling with Him). She's so convinced she is loving her neighbor that she silently seethes at her sister who is wasting her time sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:39). She is "pulled away by much serving." As Jesus responds to her (Luke 10:41-42) He reveals that she's worried about a lot of things, but isn't concerned with the one most important thing. Her service didn't flow from a pure love for God so when she was the only one loving her neighbor she decided the Lord must not even care (Luke 10:40b).

The Good Samaritan illustrates what happens when loving your God gets disconnected from loving your neighbor. The Martha and Mary story illustrates what happens when loving your neighbor gets disconnected from loving the Lord our God.

We have to have both, and both flow into one another. Love for God must propel us to love others, which must flow back into a love for God. Luke 10:25-42 reveals that if one is absent from the cycle, they're both absent from the cycle.