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 only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Jealousy. Bitterness. Anger. Distraction. Frustration.
How could these things live inside of a woman who wanted nothing more than to provide comfort and rest to all who entered her home, especially Jesus.
These verses are a very short glimpse into the rapid progression of how love for Christ and a desire to serve him can quickly lead to a "sin spiral".
Martha desired to provide comfort to Jesus. She loved him and wanted to serve him in the power of her gifts. She was a natural born hostess. She knew what was needed to provide comfort, nourishment and contentment. It was her pleasure to serve.
So what happened to get her to the point of questioning Jesus and telling him what he needed to do?
Jesus arrives. Martha probably immediately assessed what he would need to recover and rest from his travels. She feverishly worked to provide those things that would comfort and restore. She loved Jesus and wanted to give her worship through service. What an amazing gift!
Martha got busy.
"Jesus needs something to eat." Martha thought. "And water to wash his feet. Did I beat the cushions today? Should I give him wine or water to drink? Thank goodness I baked bread early this morning!"
Martha got distracted.
"I can't do everything myself! Jesus needs tending to. Where is Mary?"
Martha lost focus.
"Why am I doing all the work? Does Mary think that she is so special that she should enjoy rest and company while I do everything? That girl is always dreaming and lazing around when she should be helping me!"
Martha got angry.
"That's IT! I work and work and work, and what does Mary do? NOTHING!"
Martha got an attitude.
*Huff* *grumble* *huff*
"I'm not going to let her get away with this! Jesus needs to do something. Doesn't he know that Mary is being selfish? I'm going to tell him to make her help me".
Martha's eyes were opened.
Jesus could have easily told Mary to help her sister to prepare food for him, and she would have gladly jumped up and run to do his bidding. He could have invited Martha at any time to come and sit, to let the work wait.
But he did neither.
Jesus wanted Martha to find, on her own, that good thing. But she couldn't. Why? Because she was too busy. What started out as a beautiful act of worship through service turned into a spiral of selfish thoughts and loss of focus on what really mattered. Why? Martha forgot who she was serving because she was too busy focusing on her service.
Have you ever been there? What started out as a wonderful way to show your love and gratitude to God ends up looking like nothing lovely? We get too focused on our own power and what we are going to do for God, and then we start getting into the details and making it look good, and all of a sudden...who is center stage? That little stumbling block we all fight against...Me.
Martha wasn't any different.
When she took her focus off of Christ, and glorifying him, it became all about Martha. We want to serve, but we also want to be front and center, receiving God's undivided attention. When we feel like the balance of work and attention aren't balanced, that God is giving more attention to someone we see as not working as hard, we get angry. We get frustrated. We get angry.
Not very glorifying, is it?
Martha started out great, but lost focus, let herself become the center instead of Christ, and all of a sudden, nothing was as it should be. I think we can all appreciate her desire to give Jesus the best that she had, but once she started losing that focus, it became something sin-laden.
Jesus knows our struggles. He knew that Martha only wanted to please him. He had seen her heart and knew her love for him. And he also saw her human struggle against self. He weighed his teaching and rebuking against that love and was gentle and compassionate with her.
Isn't it wonderful to know that even when we stray far away from our original goal and live a life that is less than glorifying, that Jesus can still see in our heart, and know that even though we just can't seem to get it right, we want the opportunity to keep trying?
We are all like Martha. Paul said it like this:
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there
with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Is there something that you are struggling to break free from? What once started out as something that was beautiful and meant to glorify now is a struggle? Have you allowed the world to tarnish something that you intended to shine for Christ?
Don't give up! Martha didn't.
Don't give up! Paul didn't.
They were willing to keep going, keep trying and keep starting over.
Jesus blesses that in mighty ways. Maybe not the ways we first intended. Maybe we will glorify God by telling others of how he had to discipline us instead of through our faithfulness and wonderful deeds. How he was faithful to forgive our sins. How he took our mess and made it beautiful.
Just like Martha, we can easily go from great intentions to stuck in a place of sin. It doesn't take a tragedy. It doesn't take much of anything at all. It just takes losing focus and becoming too busy.