If the two brothers gave us plenty to think about in the Old Testament as it relates to resentment, in the New Testament we find two sisters who also know all about getting whipped up with bitter indignation.
Anyone would be understandably nervous to host Jesus and his disciples for dinner. Martha offered hospitality to Jesus and his crew and then immediately began to fret over the preparations. Pre-party anxiety is real. I suspect that Martha, in her heart of hearts, loves to throw dinner parties. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have extended the invitation. I have a friend who is the Queen of Hospitality. She has taught me that as effortless as her parties seem, even she, the best of the best at throwing a good party, gets nervous as the party draws near. Martha’s tension is not so much a reflection of her lack of capability as it is a sign that she really cares about making a wonderful dinner for her guests. For those who read this story as if Martha is somehow an envious unspiritual person, I think that’s too harsh and misses the point.
However, Jesus does offer Martha some feedback. Martha gets aggravated with her sister Mary, who sits at Jesus’ feet instead of chopping celery for the potato salad. So Martha says this:
She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Martha has basically lost her perspective. Much like Cain, who blamed Abel, Martha blames Jesus for Mary’s attentiveness to Jesus and his teaching rather than pulling kitchen duty.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:39-41
I do not think that Jesus is diminishing the role of Martha as a hostess. But what he is saying, I believe, is that not everyone has that particular gift. If Martha could stay in her own lane - hospitality, and let Mary stay in hers - learning from Jesus, then all will be well. But resentment confuses and confounds us. It gets us believing that life is unfair, when in fact, it is often just different. On a recent family vacation, my sister-in-law and I were talking about the difference between parenting from a perspective of equality versus fairness. We landed on fairness as the higher value. But if our children want us to treat everyone equally, then it is possible that they might feel resentful if we babysit for one grandchild more often than another. At this stage of life we see the wisdom of using discernment as a guide because this takes into account what our collective families’ actual needs are rather than just cookie cutter responses to life with our children in a vain attempt to keep everything equal. Fortunately, our children are gracious human beings and they understand. How can you stay in your lane and find more joy in the spiritual discipline of treating everyone fairly?