With daughters spaced two years apart, I get a front-row seat to what a relationship between sisters can look like. I’m also aware of how their personality differences dictate their responses in certain situations. And whether or not you have children, you probably know people who thrive on serving and others who just immerse themselves in the moment.
That’s interesting to keep in mind as we look at a very familiar Bible story. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus and His followers visit the house where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus live. In a panic to get everyone served, Martha throws herself into preparations around her home. Mary, on the other hand, sits quietly at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach.
Martha is frustrated that her sister isn’t helping her, so she appeals to Jesus, wanting Him to send Mary to assist. However, Jesus gently tells Martha that Mary has wisely chosen to spend her time with Him.
Maybe you’ve considered this before, but are you naturally a Mary or a Martha? I’m totally in the Martha camp. When there are things to be done, everyone needs to join in and get busy. We can all sit down and relax when everything is ready…although not really because then it will all have to be cleaned up!
I’m a doer and a list maker. I think that’s partly because I feel I will earn approval if I work hard and meet expectations. And when I have visitors in my home, I want everything to be just right. Can you relate? I wonder if Martha thought she would win Jesus’ and/or the disciples’ approval by working so hard.
I’ve read whole books that have been written about this story, but today, I have just four ideas that I hope will encourage us all.
Jesus sees us in our busyness.
In verse 40, Mary questions Jesus, asking, Lord, do you care? The answer to that is yes. He saw Martha’s troubled heart. He was aware of the work she was trying to accomplish. God had made her with the desire to achieve. And when we’re overwhelmed and trying to do it all on our own, He sees us, too, and has compassion.
We can get caught up in running around and doing all the things. And they can be all good things! He sees our heart and knows our intent, yet He longs most of all for us to fellowship with Him.
Don’t compare our service to what someone else is doing.
Martha was busy, but not too busy to notice that her sister wasn’t helping! She was in her zone, but she thought Mary needed to step it up and shoulder some of the work.
There’s plenty in the service of the Lord for all of us to do. God’s given each of us gifts that we can use to serve Him. Maybe you can’t sing in the choir, but you love helping in the nursery. Or perhaps you like to organize meals for a new mom or are called to lead a ladies Bible study at church. But let’s not measure ourselves against others, whether to make ourselves feel better or worse about what we’re doing.
Make Jesus the priority, not our acts of service.
What did Jesus say to Martha in verse 41? “And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:“
Martha was focused on the work and all the things that needed to be done. And just like her, if we’re so busy serving that we don’t have time to be with Jesus, we’re too busy. It’s all about our relationship with Him, That’s not grown through serving, but through spending time in His Word and in prayer. We’re not fit for service if we’re not taking time to be with Him.
As we serve, it could also be helpful for us to check our motives. Was Martha rushing around because she wanted to serve Jesus well or because she wanted to impress all these people who were in her home? We can’t know, but I could relate if it was the second motive! It might be helpful to ask ourselves if we’re serving because we love Jesus or so that everyone else will notice our efforts.
Don’t let our service distract us from our worship.
How sweet it is to just be with God. While His followers didn’t know it, Jesus wasn’t going to be with them for years and years, but for just a short time. Being able to listen to, learn from, and worship Him that day was a privilege.
Sometimes we don’t see the value in stillness. With busy schedules, it’s all too easy to rush through our devotional time and fail to really worship the Lord on a regular basis.
I’d love to know how this story ended. Did Martha set aside what she was doing and join Mary at Jesus’ feet? Did Mary eventually get up and help Martha serve their guests? I guess we’ll have to find out when we get to Heaven! But I do know that Jesus invites each one of us to spend time with Him and learn from His Word.