Usually the lesson revolves around how to be more like Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus--which is a useful, excellent, and necessary teaching. Usually, Martha is portrayed as the bad guy of the piece. Usually, I feel sad because in my soul, I am a Martha. I am often "anxious and troubled about many things." If I have visitors, I want to serve enough food, I want to display a clean home, I want to care for friends' needs. I can justify all my bustling under the umbrella of service.
A few months ago, however, God showed me something new about this passage. Yes, Martha is worrying and fretting and ignoring the better choice, which is to sit at the feet of Jesus. She is annoyed with her sister for not helping her to serve Jesus (and probably at least some of the other disciples). She feels put-upon and justified in her grievance. I have felt much the same way before--why are people standing around talking when there is work to be done? And I have fretted. And stewed. And gotten mad at the people who aren't doing their part.
Martha, however, goes directly to Jesus. She doesn't hint around to Mary or walk around sighing loudly as she cleans. She doesn't talk to all of the other guests about how Mary isn't helping, "Bless her heart." She doesn't holler at Mary later. She goes to Jesus, tells Him what she is feeling, and asks Him to do something. Her actions are exactly what we should do when we are upset. Go to the Lord, tell Him how we are feeling, and then request what we want (whether we're right or not).
Notice that Martha received an answer from Jesus. He directly addresses her desire--probably not as she wishes Him to, but He answers her nonetheless, and immediately. Jesus gives Martha the wisdom and the directive that she truly needs to "choose the good portion."
I wish that I would instantly choose the right action like Mary did in this instance (because, if you keep reading, there's another encounter described in John 11 in which Mary is not necessarily "the good one".) Unfortunately, I am much more likely to be distracted by my agenda and miss God's. When I do and when I start to get frustrated with someone else who is not doing what I think they should be, I hope that I will be wise as Martha and take my grievance directly to Jesus and hear what He tells me to do. Martha may not have sat at the feet of Jesus that night, but she did walk in relationship with Him, and I can imagine where she would have been found the next time Jesus came for dinner.