Luke 10:41-42 “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed--or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”
There’s an account in Luke’s gospel of Jesus stopping at the home of Martha and her sister, Mary. Luke 10 says that while Martha was bustling about, trying to make perfect accommodations for her perfect house guest, her sister Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, intently listening to everything He had to say. Apparently, poor harried Martha gets exasperated with her lazy sister and says, “Lord don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40).
I’ll never forget the first time I heard this story, as a young adult. It was in a Sunday school setting, and after reading that verse, the teacher was discussing the sister who Jesus scolded for having it totally wrong. It couldn’t have been more obvious in my mind--Martha was the hero of this story for working so hard for the Lord, and Mary was the zero for sitting around doing NOTHING. Jesus was about to reward Martha for her hard work. Duh. So, we continue reading: “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed--or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” See?? Three cheers for Martha! Way to go gir--wait, what?
The gears of my mind ground to a halt. I couldn’t wrap my head around what we had just read. No one else was surprised at all by this crazy news, they all launched into a discussion of poor, pitiful Martha. I remember thinking, “Sheesh, let’s not be so hard on her. She was working herself into a tizzy for Jesus. That’s not a bad thing!” I may not have opened my mouth that day, but in my heart, I was sporting the Team Martha jersey, with matching megaphone!
But now, after many years of experience, study, and a closer relationship with Jesus, I can safely look back on myself and say, “Girl, put down that megaphone. You’ve got it all wrong!” See, I was so focused on Martha’s action and Mary’s lack of action that I totally missed the distr-action! The bible clearly says, “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” (vs 40, emphasis mine). It wasn’t that Jesus was correcting Martha for working hard. He was correcting her because she was distracted from Him by all her work. Think about it. Who was getting more out of the experience: Mary, soaking up the words of the Savior of the world, or Martha, soaking the dishes? Ouch. Although my heart wasn’t mature enough to see it at the time, I can now see why I was so defensive (and still am, a little) of Martha. She. Is. Me. How many times have I taken my gaze away from the Lord or stopped listening to Him because I got distracted? Whether it’s shiny worldly things that keep me too busy, or even well-meaning church work that takes up my time, I can so easily get nudged off-course. I get so focused on the action that it becomes distraction, and I’ve lost sight of the whole reason for it all in the first place!
God bless you, Martha, for your hard work and desire to make things just right for the Lord, but dear sister, I beg you, just STOP. Sit down at the feet of Jesus, take a deep breath, and just spend time in the presence of your loving Savior, who wants nothing more than to be with you. Block out the world for awhile and fix your eyes and heart on the precious Lamb of God and what He wants to say to YOU. I promise, it’ll be worth it.