Luke 10:40

ESV But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
NIV But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. 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!'
NASB But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do the serving by myself? Then tell her to help me.'
CSB But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand."
NLT But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, 'Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.'
KJV But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

What does Luke 10:40 mean?

Martha has invited Jesus into her home, where He is now teaching (Luke 10:38). Martha is trying to honor Jesus by showing as much hospitality as she can. This flows naturally from the expectations of her culture. Her sister, however, chooses not to help but to sit at Jesus' feet and learn (Luke 10:39). Women of her era rarely get to learn from male teachers; let alone Jesus of Nazareth. So, Mary takes full advantage of her opportunity.

In the last few chapters, Luke included stories which emphasize the importance of hospitality. Jesus told two different sets of disciples they should receive the hospitality of those open to their message (Luke 9:4–5; 10:5–11). He quietly passed by a Samaritan village that refused to offer Him hospitality because they rejected His message (Luke 9:52–56).

More recently, Jesus interacted with a lawyer who knew he needed to learn how to love God and others. But the man also wanted to narrow the definition of the "neighbors" he was required to love. Martha knows how to love Jesus as a neighbor: to serve Him and meet His physical needs. She doesn't know how to love Jesus as God: to listen to Him and absorb His teaching. Jesus gently corrects Martha by explaining that she needs Him more than He needs her (Luke 10:42).

The good Samaritan in Jesus' parable served out of love. The townspeople with whom the disciples interacted served out of a desire to learn about the kingdom of God. Martha is caught in an overdeveloped sense of cultural obligation (Luke 10:41). Paul will later describe how worldly expectations are not always bad, but they may pull us away from "undivided devotion to the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:32–35). Jesus tries to teach Martha that she doesn't need to work so hard. He doesn't need her to work so hard. But she does need to sit and learn from what He has to say.

This is not the first time someone expected Jesus to correct a woman's break from social norms. A Pharisee showed proper cultural hospitality by inviting Jesus to dine, but the meal was interrupted by a disreputable woman. She proceeded to wash Jesus' feet with her tears and her hair. The Pharisee was disgusted that Jesus didn't put her in her proper place. Jesus rebuked the Pharisee and taught him how the woman's attentions greatly exceeded his minimal hospitality. The woman, like Mary, valued and responded to the kingdom message, not the cultural expectations in which the Pharisee and Martha find their identity and worth (Luke 7:36–50).

"Serving" comes from the Greek root word diakonia, the exact term from which we derive the word "deacon." The New Testament will continue to affirm that prayer and the ministry of the word have a higher priority than service (Luke 11:1–13; Acts 6:1–4). Servants have an important job, but they, too, need to be fed spiritually (Acts 2:42).
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: