It happens every time I read the story of Mary and Martha… I feel like a deer in the headlights… I get convicted that I am Martha because I focus too much on the service to God and not as much on the devotion to Him. I spend too much time in action and not enough time in prayer and devotion. I know that I am not the only person who feels this way. Let’s be real, there is a reason that stores have aisles and sections set up with planners, journals, life guides, and calendars. They know they can profit from all of us Marthas that have 100 items on our to-do lists and another 100 running through our brains every minute. Just like Biblical Martha, we need a place to focus our thoughts and a place to originate our lives. For Biblical Matha, her place was in the Lord who was right in front of her. For us common day Marthas we need the same thing, we need to find our place at the feet of Jesus and just listen. I think you would agree with me saying that if we don’t have a place to focus our minds we have a tenancy to lose grip on what is truly important and that leads to anxiety and stress.
Now that we have recognized the Marthas in the room, let's take a look at the story of her and her sister found in Luke 10:38-42.
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’
‘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.’ ”
I have a lot to learn from this passage! First, we see that Martha was distracted because of the work she was doing to prepare for the Lord’s visit. Serving others and especially the Lord is not a bad thing and is not a sinful thing but when Martha allowed herself to put the serving of the Lord above everything else she crossed a line. She was not wrong for wanting to serve the Lord and wanting to provide a nice dinner for Him, but her works got in the way of her reverence. I think a lot of us fall into this zone, we set out with good intentions but we keep adding more and more to the plate making it more about the dinner and less about who is eating. Second, she allowed her frustrations to go to a place of anxiety and anger towards her sister. We see in verse 40 that Martha goes to the Lord and asks Him to tell Mary to help with the preparations. She was fed up with doing all the work while her sister just sat at the feet of Jesus and listened. In a way, she was saying that it isn’t fair that she was doing all the work and both her and Mary would get the reward for it. It was a group project and she was doing all the work… I know for me personally, I have been in this place countless times, angry and filled with anxiety over the fact that I was working overtime and others were not doing much of anything. At least that is how I saw it even if that was not true but that was not the case in this story. In this story, Martha thought Mary was taking the easy way out but in reality, Mary was doing what was right and sitting in devotion to the Lord. The Lord does not want us to allow our work and service to cross into the realm of anxiety or anger, and HE definitely doesn't want us to be judging others when we think they are not carrying as much of the load. Many verses instruct us to work hard for the Lord as we see in Colossians 3:23 which says, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Verses like this are filled with much wisdom but none of them tell us to push ourselves to the point of anxiety and anger. None of them tell us to work hard to earn the prize of being loved by the Lord. Our salvation is not to be gained by any acts of service. Third, we learn that there is only a few truly important thing and the most important is being in the presence of the Lord as much as possible. Sure we have many responsibilities as adults but we must keep Jesus in the center of all things. When we are driving the kids to school, make it a worship session. When we are cooking dinner, pray over it that it will be nutritious so those who eat it will be full and ready to serve the Lord. Take your bath time as a time to refuel your soul with scripture or prayer. There are a lot of small things we can do to place God at the center of all the things we do in our lives.
Anxiety seems to be a widespread disorder that affects all people in the world, not just believers. I believe that anxiety stems from human nature which has a tendency to take everything a little too far. When I think about the anxiety I feel from time to time it is a feeling of confusion and division in my mind. I cannot seem to keep my mind from jumping around from bad to worse. It only makes me add more work to my busy schedule because I feel like it all must be done and it has to me that does it. It is important to remember that anxiety is not from the Lord it is from the great divider which we know as the devil. The devil can use our tendency to take things too far to his advantage and make us lose sight of what is really important. Jesus gives us the remedy to this overwhelming need to serve and do more that leads to anxiety in verse 42 when He tells Martha that Mary has chosen right and it will not be taken from her. If we want to unburden ourselves all we must do is sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what he has to say. We don’t have to work ourselves into a frenzy to be in the presence of God. He is there and will always be there, most of the time we just need to stop moving long enough to see that He is right in front of us waiting for us to sit with Him.
So from a Martha to a Martha, I challenge you to add one more thing to the novel-length to-do list. It is simply this… Stop and be in the presence of God. Open up your bible and your heart to what God is trying to tell you. Together we can learn the limits of our works and learn to sit in devotion. We can learn to listen before we go into action. We can let our devotion lead to our work. When we do those things great things can happen! I started My Christian Walk after sitting in devotion with God, He gave me a feeling of excitement to share what I was hearing. I am sure that God has something great planned for you in you just take the time to slow down and listen.
How to get started? (because you know us Marthas love a good bullet point list)
Make sure your to-do list is not a list of distractions that are leading you away from the Lord.
Take the time to realize that everyone is gifted differently and we are all parts of the same body which is the hands and feet of the Lord to the broken world. Some of us are the hands and feet that make the moves and some are the ears and eyes who see what needs to happen in the world.
Recognize there is only one real goal in life and that is to live in the Lord and do the working of the Lord with the time we have. Use our gifts and passions to service the Lord.