As I shared in my most recent posts, I have struggled lately with negativity and a sense of constant overwhelm. There just never seem to be enough hours in the day, enough energy in reserve to do all I should do, or enough of me to go around. My persistent frustration and anxiety was starting to be a real drain on me and, consequently, on the entire family.
At the same time, after I finished up my previous Bible reading plan, I decided that in February I wanted to do more actual Bible study instead of just doing daily reading and checking that off my list. I am a member of the Simply Living for Him community, where Karen DeBeus posts daily devotionals, hosts Bible studies, and more! She hosted a study on Mary and Martha starting January, so I decided to jump in and do that one this month. Let me tell you, the Lord knew it was exactly what I was going to need right now!
I’m sure we are all relatively familiar with the account of Martha and Mary and their encounter with Jesus in their home, but for the sake of discussion, let’s reread this passage together:
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.Luke 10: 38-42 (ESV)
And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,
but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
I think in the past whenever I have heard people teach on this passage, all I’ve heard was that Martha was too busy doing things, and she should have been sitting there with Mary just listening to Jesus. I always thought that Jesus was rebuking Martha, but as I looked at this passage more closely for myself, I realized that simply was not the case. Jesus does not say “Martha, Martha, you are doing too many things and serving too much.” He says, “…you are anxious and troubled about many things.”
Serving is not a bad thing. Being busy and having a lot of work to do is not necessarily a problem, if it is the work God has set before us in a season. The problem Martha had was that her heart and mind were anxious and troubled about many things. Other translations of the roots of those words are “worried,” “bothered,” “disturbed,” or “disquieted.” Martha was distracted by many cares. Her heart was divided. She was serving her Master outwardly, but her heart was inwardly focussed on herself. So she became resentful and accusatory toward her sister. Ouch. Been there. Done that.
So Jesus gently redirects Martha’s focus. He reminds her that to have an undivided heart is the key to true service, true worship. One thing is necessary. One thing only cannot be taken from us. That one thing is our relationship with Jesus Christ. He cannot be taken from us, even when we are busy with much serving. We can be busy about the work He gives us to do while keeping out eyes and hearts focussed on Him.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,Colossians 3: 23-24 (ESV)
knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Also, I want to note that there is hope for us, as there was hope for Martha. If you look at John 12 in which Jesus returns to Bethany before Passover and eats at Martha and Mary’s house again, you might notice some similarities and some differences with the Luke 10 passage.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.John 12: 1-8 (ESV)
Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”
He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
Martha is serving again, busy about the meal. Mary is at Jesus’ feet again, this time pouring out what may very well have been her most valuable earthly possession. But does Martha scold? Does she again demand that Mary stop this anointing nonsense and get to work in the kitchen? Nope. This time Martha is quiet and working in the background.
Of course, Scripture doesn’t spell it out, but I do wonder if over time spent with Jesus, Martha has learned how to serve with a whole, undivided heart. I know that that is what I want to learn to do. And spending more time with Jesus every day, sitting at His feet like Mary, is how I hope to do just that. If you are worried and distracted by many things, I would encourage you to do the same.