What does 'anxiety' mean to Jesus?

Did you know…


. . .that there is a special connection between two important words in this week's gospel story. This week we hear the story of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha. While Mary sits at Jesus' feet, Martha distractedly goes about taking care of everyone. Finally she gets so tired of doing everything alone while Mary sits on the ground listening to Jesus that she interrupts him to ask why he doesn't care that Mary isn't helping. Jesus responds, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her." It is in this response that we find our two words of interest.


First is the word "worried." In the original Greek the word translated here as worried is μεριμνάω (merimnao). The root of this word is μέρος (meros), which meant "part, portion, or share." The idea is that when a person is worried they are being internally "divided into parts," or "going to pieces" or "pulled apart" on the inside. Its the same idea as when a person if worrying or anxious and says that their thoughts are going in "a million different directions." Maybe we can related to this feeling of being pulled apart or divided up when we are worried. This root word is where things get interesting, because it is also the root for another word that Jesus uses in the very next sentence.


His final words to Martha are, "Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her." This word "part" that Jesus uses is the Greek word μερίς (meris) and it comes from the root word μέρος (meros), the same root as the word for "worry." Jesus here uses words with the same root to criticize Martha's actions and to praise Mary's. What do you think it means that Martha is criticized for being divided into many parts (worried) while Mary is praised for choosing one part?

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