“‘Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better'”
Where do I even begin? I have read this story in the gospel a thousand times and every time it just rubs me the wrong way. I am a Martha, I think I have been a Martha from the womb. I totally connect and understand Martha in this story and I’ve always been, if I can be frank, a little annoyed with Jesus and his response to her. Let me just say I’m pretty sure Martha was the oldest, any of you out there that are the oldest girl in your family will know what I am talking about. I have two sisters one of which in particular is a Mary with no hint of Martha in her at all. I know exactly how Martha was feeling as she peeled potatoes, set the table and got ready for all of these guests in her house. My blood pressure actually goes up while I imagine her getting more and more angry that her baby sister is just sitting there not doing a darn thing to help. I mean “hello, can you not see Martha doing all the work!!! At least get up and put the stupid plates on the table.” So here is my journey through this passage (with a little help from Beth Moore and the Holy Spirit).
John 11:5 tells us that Jesus loved them both. Now going back to my sibling problem I can see this turning into a Jesus loved Mary more thing, and no that is not what is going on here at all. As a mother there are times when I have to reprimand one of my children, it doesn’t mean I love the other one more. And let’s keep in mind that Martha is the one that invited Jesus in, not her brother not Mary. It is the Martha’s of this world that think to do those kind of things, she was not bad. This passage is not about good vs. bad it is about good vs. better. Oswald chambers wrote: “The great enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but the good which is not good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best.” It took me a while to wrap my brain around what he was saying, I think what he was saying was; doing something that is good can often distract and keep us from doing what we are really suppose to be doing. Let me use an example from my life, I like a clean organized house with three little ones, a dog, and a husband running around it takes a lot of time to keep it this way. There is nothing wrong with a clean home in fact it can help keep us healthy and keep our stuff from getting broken, but all too often I find my answers to Hunter’s pleas for my attention as “not now I’m busy, not now I have to get these dishes done.” Having a clean home is good, and Hunter learning to play and entertain himself is good too but one day he will be grown, I know that what is more important than a clean house is a relationship with my son. Sometimes I have to let the dishes pile up and the beds go unmade in order to do what’s best.
“Sometimes ministry can be the biggest distraction to the pursuit of true intimacy with God. God’s Word is saying that if we’re not careful, even our need-meeting, well-meaning ministries can distract us from what is most important.” I think that this is one of our biggest dangers as women, we are wired to take care of things, that is why women are mothers and not fathers; if something happened to me the children’s nails would never get cut, the toilet paper would never get replaced and the clothes would never get put in the dressers. Likewise I’m sure we could each think of at least one thing that would not get done in our church buildings and for our church services if we women just didn’t do it. But these things are not the same as having a relationship with Jesus. Service is important James says “faith without works is dead” but it is not the same as sitting down and spending time with the Lord. Remember “if Satan can’t make us bad he’ll make us busy.”
The issue with Martha wasn’t that she was preparing a meal for the Lord “the issue is that she continued all her duties when the time came to sit at Christ’s feet and listen.” I am so glad the Beth Moore brought this up because one of the things I really hate is when people don’t prepare properly for something in a church service and then act like they were doing the Spirit a favor by giving him extra “room” to work. God is NOT honored by procrastination or laziness, of course there will be times when the Spirit moves you away from something you worked hard on, but he isn’t asking you to not work, more often he will bless your hard work by working through that. The word preparation has the beginning “pre” this means before. The work is to be done before not during, there is a time to work and a time to sit. Why is it that we know we need the Lord but when we get super busy and stressed the first thing to go is our time with him? It’s as if we’re saying “yes you created me and saved me but you understand how busy I am let’s reschedule.” Well I had a very very close friend, we practically lived with each other during high school but when we got to college she couldn’t say no to other people. That meant that if we had something planned but one of her more “needy” friends had hurt feelings, or a bad day our thing would get called off. At first I liked that we were that close and comfortable with each other; that we knew each others needs and I truly didn’t want to make her life more stressful but after a while I began to wonder did she not want to spend time with me? I clearly wasn’t as important to her as every one else and I got tired of always making the first move, eventually we spent less and less time together and now we barely even talk on the phone. Let us make sure that that is not how we treat our Lord!
One last thing, the scriptures don’t tell us if Martha ever actually asked for help, maybe she did but I’m thinking she was thinking “I shouldn’t have to ask” because that is exactly what I would be thinking. You know sometimes we should ask for help, I’m guessing most of our husbands and most of the Marys we know would help they just need a little more direction and prodding. My Grammy always says “many hands make light work” that is true.
There is nothing wrong with being a “Martha” within the correct parameters. Lazarus was the head of the house, Mary, the depth of the house, but it was the hands of the house that invited Jesus in. Otherwise Mary wouldn’t have had a set of feet at which to sit and Lazarus wouldn’t have had a friend with which to recline. Jesus wants our service but he wants our hearts more. Right priorities will never choose us, we must choose “Mary has chosen what is better.” Let us not allow good to become the enemy of our best.