Mary and Martha, in this event, are used to reflect two different approaches to living out faith. Martha reflects those who do and Mary reflects those who listen.
As we have looked at this story before we know that many relate to Martha and feel for her and it is slightly confronting to see her being chastised by Jesus for trying to care for the people in the house on her own.
I think that we miss what Jesus’ issue is with Martha. I don’t believe it is about the working, it is that she is worrying and getting upset. She is so focused on the work and fulfilling her social responsibilities that she has lost sight of the one thing that is important.
The problem is that Jesus never says what the one thing is, and so we are left to decide for ourselves what he meant. Maybe Luke deliberately left it out because he didn’t think it needed to be said. Maybe he wasn’t told either.
For me the one thing is knowing God/Jesus. Mary wanted to know Jesus, to be close to him. God only wants us to be close to God.
I believe Martha wanted Mary to help her complete the social acts, but they shouldn’t have been social acts, they should have been acts of love. If Martha had worked with God, and met God in the doing, she wouldn’t have cared if Mary helped, or if she had asked Mary to help it would have been to share with her the opportunity to meet God in the doing.
God seeks to be with us and in us, but instead we leave God on the outside for many reasons. Sometimes we are so rushed that we don’t have time to think about God. Sometimes we don’t think that what we are doing is about God, so why would you involve God. Sometimes we are enjoying the time so much that we don’t need to think about God. You can probably think of other reasons.
I do not believe the story is about listening being better than doing. I believe it is about where God (Creator/Jesus/The Holy Spirit) is.
Spending time with God is not a requirement, it is an opportunity.