I would encourage you to read Romans 12 in connection with this post. I was going to quote the first 13 verses, but felt it was too long for this blog post. But please read it to get the whole context of what I am quoting. Also, when I try to give the sense of what different words and passages mean, I am in NO WAY trying to offer a different "translation" of the Scriptures. Most of this information comes from Strongs and Thayer via a handy little tool called E-Sword. I love it. Bible study has been taken to a whole new level since Tom installed this on my computer.
Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
The Greek word translated service means worship. We are to offer our whole selves up as a sacrifice in worship to the Lord.
Rom 12:4-6 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us...
We each have a different gift of service (worship) to offer to the Lord. The following verses describe some of those gifts, including this one:
Rom 12:7 ...or ministry, let us wait on our ministering...
The Greek word translated ministry/ministering (same word) is also translated ministration in Acts 6:1 (the account of why deacons were chosen), minister in Hebrews 1:14 (about angels ministering to the saints), relief in Acts 11:29 (aide sent to help the suffering saints in Judea) and serving in Luke 10:40 (the famous "Mary and Martha" passage)
It is a word used to describe the work of meeting both the physical and spiritual needs of others, and stems from the noun form which means servant.
Rom 12:9 Let love be without dissimulation....
Literally, let your benevolence be without hypocrisy. The word for love is agape, the ultimate giving kind of love.
Rom 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another...
Literally, cherish one another as you would members of your own families with brotherly kindness; showing that you highly value one another.
Rom 12:13 Distributing1 to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
This verse is self-explanatory, but I found the word given interesting. The Greek means to chase after, or pursue, like someone running toward a goal. The goal in this case is loving and entertaining strangers.
So here is a whole passage dedicated to teaching us that we are not alike in the way we worship and serve Christ. We all have different gifts enabling us to worship and serve Christ in different ways. And the act of meeting the physical needs of others, both Christians and strangers (and Christ Himself while He was on this earth) is just as much a legitimate act of worship as any other.
So what was the difference between Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42? Not so much in what they did, but in their attitudes. Both were engaging in legitimate acts. But Martha did not have a legitimate attitude.
A severe thunderstorm is rolling in, so I am going to have to finish this later. I promise to finish this thought before I take my summer blog break. :)