World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
42. But one thing is necessary. Some give a very meager interpretation of these words, as if they meant that one sort of dish is enough. 258258 “Comme si Christ entendoit qu’il y a assez d’un mets, ou d’une sorte de viande;” — “as if Christ meant that one dish, or one sort of food, is enough.” Others make ingenious inquiries, but beside the purpose, about Unity. 259259 “De Monade.” — “Les autres plus subtilement, mais mal a propos, traittans ici de l’unite: comme si par ce mot de Un, Iesus Christ eust voulu exlurre tout nombre;” — “others more ingeniously, but inappropriately, treaying here of unity: as if, by the word One, Jesus Christ intended to exclude all diversity of employment.” But Christ had quite another design, which was, that whatever believers may undertake to do, and in whatever employments they may engage, there is one object to which every thing ought to be referred. In a word, we do but wander to no purpose, if we do not direct all our actions to a fixed object. The hospitality of Martha was faulty in this respect, that she neglected the main business, and devoted herself entirely to household affairs. And yet Christ does not mean that every thing else, with the exception of this one thing, is of no importance, but that we must pay a proper attention to order, lest what is accessory—as the phrase is—become our chief concern.
Mary hath chosen the good part. There is no comparison here, as unskillful and mistaken interpreters dream. Christ only declares, that Mary is engaged in a holy and profitable employment, in which she ought not to be disturbed. “You would have a good right,” he says, “to blame your sister, if she indulged in ease, or gave herself up to trifling occupations, or aimed at something unsuitable to her station, and left to you the whole charge of the household affairs. But now, when she is properly and usefully employed in hearing, it would be an act of injustice to withdraw her from it; for an opportunity so favorable is not always in her power.” There are some, indeed, who give a different interpretation to the latter clause, which shall not be taken away from her, as if Christ intended to say, that Mary hath chosen the good part, because the fruit of heavenly doctrine can never perish. For my own part, I have no objection to that opinion, but have followed the view which appeared to me to be more in accordance with Christ’s design. 260260 Calvin appears to interpret the words, which shall not be taken from her, not as a doctrinal statement, but as a command, or, at least, as marking out the line of conduct which ought to be pursued by Martha and others towards Mary. The good part, or, as he explains it, “the holy and profitable employment,” shall not be take, from her. “She ought not to be disturbed,” and “it would be an act of injustice to withdraw her from it.” — Ed.