The Bible isn’t filled with ancient stories of spiritual people who could never relate to our fast-paced, modern culture. When you really start reading, it’s easy to find that the people written about in Scripture were down to earth people just like you and me.
And that’s all for a good reason. The Bible is for every generation, every culture, and every person. Recently I have been thinking about two sisters in the Bible, Mary and Martha. One story about them is in Luke 10:38-42.
As they went on their way, he entered into a certain village, and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she came up to him, and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister left me to serve alone? Ask her therefore to help me.” Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.
Martha was clearly feeling overwhelmed by the chores that she had to do, and her sister didn’t seem to care at all. So she complains to Jesus about her dilemma. Martha is one character that reminds me of myself. I even have thought to myself, “What’s up with Mary just sitting there doing nothing! Doesn’t she know that her sister needs help?”
I obviously did not have the right response to the lesson of this story. But if you ever feel like Martha, the words of Jesus are exactly what we need to hear.
Sometimes we have so many things to do. The feelings of frustration and exhaustion show up even more when it seems like no one wants to help us. Martha was serving. She was being hospitable by opening her home. She was serving. And wasn’t it Jesus who taught her to serve?
So what exactly went wrong? Martha was distracted by serving. She wasn’t doing anything wrong. But Jesus saw deeper than what she was doing. He could read her heart and motives. He understood that her anxiety was overshadowing her love and devotion to her Savior.
Imagine if I threw a party for my grandma. I could go through all the trouble of inviting all of her friends, planning a menu, and choosing decorations. The gifts are all there, guests are
showing up, and the balloon arch that I spent 2 hours setting up looks fantastic. My grandmother, the guest of honor, arrives. Instead of spending any time with her, I am rushing around making sure everyone feels welcome. Everything has to be just right
I go to the kitchen to perfect the frosting on the cupcakes.
I'm feeling a little stressed out that the dessert table doesn't look the way I wanted. As I arrange the cupcakes, I look over and notice my sister - who could be helping me. She should be helping me! Instead, she is sitting with our grandma, talking to her. The audacity! I get angry...
The point of the party was to celebrate my grandma. I missed the point. I think this is a could be a slight exaggeration of what happened to Martha, but she definitely didn’t have her priorities straight. She missed the point - God was literally visiting her home, but she saw other things as more important.
This leaves me to wonder about the things that needed to get done. There really were things that she needed to do. Was she to do all of it herself? The problem was that Martha had a misplaced focus.
All of the things we could ever accomplish are only finished because God gives us the strength to do them in the first place. Martha may even have been putting unnecessary burdens on herself as the hostess. She cared about things that didn’t matter.
Remember that this story is told in Luke chapter 10. We can read in the chapter just before this that Jesus had fed 5,000 men with only two fish and five loaves. Martha probably knew about that miracle. Even if she was serving food, she really didn’t need to worry about it. Jesus was there.
Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:33
But seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well.
Martha was putting the wrong things first. But she went even farther. She wanted her sister Mary to have this misguided view as well. When she noticed that Mary was focused on Jesus, she wondered if He even cared about her situation.
Lord, don’t you care that my sister left me to serve alone?
If I’m honest, I’ve done that, too. The disciples also said something similar when they were on a boat caught in a storm. Jesus wasn’t concerned about the storm in the least. He was taking a nap.
He himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion, and they woke him up, and told him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are dying?” Mark 4:38
Jesus’s disciples didn’t understand that they were not in any danger. They weren't dying. Jesus wasn’t afraid of the storm because He had total control over it. They misjudged their circumstances.
Like Martha and the disciples, it is easy to look at the things happening in our lives and our responsibilities and misread them. We loose focus of who Jesus is. He is God. He wants our trust and focus to be turned to Him. He is the Creator and has our lives in His hand.
Jesus gently answered Martha’s request.
Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed.
The answer is as beautiful today as it was when he spoke it to her. It is a lesson that every one of us should learn. Jesus cares. Don’t turn your gaze off of him. Only one thing is needed.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Do you ever put extra worries on yourself that are unnecessary?
What things do you focus on rather than Jesus?