Sunday, May 04, 2014

Samaritan, Mary, and Martha

In Luke 10 the parable of the Good Samaritan and the story of Mary and Martha are separated by at least hours if not days, so they have no natural common context, but they are juxtaposed in the text. So on that relatively flimsy basis:

The priest and Levite were supposed to be serving in the presence of God. Being in the presence of God is what Mary chose--the better part. Serving others, like the Samaritan, is what Martha chose. So can we read these as balancing passages? One emphasizes the superlative value of being with God, and the other the necessity to also serve your neighbor.

On the other hand, the priest and Levite were also supposed to be serving the people as they mediated between God and man, and so their job also partook of Martha's. Too focused on the formalities, they lost sight of the purpose of their service and avoided the man who, if dead, would have made them unclean and prevented their ritual service. Then the passages reinforce each other.

I suppose the question of which is the best reading depends on what are my attitudes to God and to service--am I going overboard one way or another...

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