Before we begin, I need to ask you a question, one that no one has probably ever asked you. How much do you like your toes? Yes, you read that right–there is no typo there. I’m asking you about those nasty little digits attached to your foot. You know, the ones that are beyond gross on like 90% of people? Your toes. Now that we’re clear, let me repeat my question: how much do you like your toes? If you REALLY love your toes and are rather sensitive in temperament, I’m going to tell you straight: you might want to find something else to read. The topic that I feel God has really laid on my heart lately is one that I can guarantee will stomp on several sets of toes. For some of you, I’m likely to step on only one or two toes (you’ll be fine. You have several others…probably.). For some others of you, though, there’s a chance I’m about to step–maybe even painfully–on nine or ten of those suckers. While I certainly don’t ever aim to upset anyone, I trust that what God says in the Bible is Truth. That means that I believe that all the lessons taught to us in the Bible are the ones we should follow, not this pick-and-choose-to-suit-yourself-and-what-you-want mess that we so often do. If you feel sore in the toes (or spirit) after reading this, I highly recommend that you spend some time with God, asking Him why, because I’d be willing to bet there’s something in this that He’d like to discuss with you. And better Him than me, am I right?
If you aren’t familiar with the story of Mary and Martha found in the book of Luke, I highly encourage you to check it out. It’s literally only five verses (Luke 10: 38-42), but there’s so much wisdom and guidance in it, especially for a world like the one we face today. I’ll give you a quick summary, but it’s only five verses to begin with. Come on, people, you can handle that!
While traveling with his disciples, Jesus came upon the village in which Martha and Mary lived. Martha welcomed him and his fellow travelers back to her home for a meal. At her home, Jesus meets Mary, Martha’s sister. While Martha hustles into the kitchen, focused on the task in front of her, Mary chooses to sit at Jesus’s feet in order to focus on Him and His teachings. So to clarify, Martha’s goal was to do; Mary’s goal was to listen and learn. (This is highly important. You’ll want to remember it for later.)
The Bible tells us, though, that things went wrong quickly. Martha, bothered and frustrated and stressed, essentially asks Jesus to scold her sister for choosing to sit instead of helping her in the kitchen. Verse 40 finds Martha approaching Jesus and saying, “Lord, is it nothing to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me!” Oh the variety of times I’ve thought this in my life…times when I thought Nathan wasn’t doing as much as I was around here, and I wanted my “greater contribution” recognized. Times that I thought other moms didn’t have kids as needy and high-maintenance as mine, and I wanted someone to recognize just how much work I was doing. Times at work when I thought other teachers were being recognized for hard work but whom I felt had much easier students than I did. And this list could go on and on, I’m sure.
Before we go forward and see Jesus’s reply to Martha’s demand, let’s take a minute to pay careful attention to Martha’s behavior. We know Martha was upset with her sister. We know Martha felt she was left doing all the work while Mary relaxed and enjoyed leisure time with Jesus. But let’s read between the lines for a moment, really look closely at our friend Martha. First, I feel it bears noting that this whole “come over and eat…I’ll cook for you and all your friends” idea was actually Martha’s. The Bible specifically tells us it was Martha who brought Jesus and his disciples into her home. Mary is never even mentioned until after Martha returns home with Jesus. Second, Martha gets upset with her sister for not helping her serve the food to their guests. Anybody been there before? Anybody ever gotten mad at someone for not doing something you never asked them to do, something you just sort felt they should intuitively know you wanted them to do? Hands up, wives! (Why are women so bad about expecting their men to just read their minds??) We’ve all been where Martha is, regardless of gender. We’ve all expected someone to help us without ever being straight-forward about our need. Let’s not stop at this little mini-lesson, however. Let’s look a tiny bit closer.
The true motivation behind Martha’s upset is unclear. Maybe she was very, very set on impressing Jesus (haven’t we all fallen into this trap?) and was distraught at the thought of trying to handle that task without her sister’s help. But maybe it was a true goodness that caused Martha’s upset. She knew about Jesus. She knew He was the Messiah, and I feel pretty safe assuming she was beyond honored to have Him in her house. Maybe, just maybe, the reason she was so upset with Mary was because she was jealous of that time Mary was getting with the Savior while she slaved away in the kitchen. While Martha’s behavior in this story isn’t the kind for us to emulate, I can certainly understand and admire her desire to be so near Jesus and to hear His teachings and His words that she’s irritated by the other demands on her time. So maybe a sincere desire for Jesus, when it’s not accompanied by judgment of or anger and bitterness toward someone else, isn’t such a bad things after all? You mull that one over, and we’ll continue on with our Bible story.
After Martha asks Jesus to scold Mary, we get a chance to see His reply to her. In verse 41 it says, “But the Lord replied to her by saying, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” HOLD THE PHONE!!! I AM MARTHA! You take out Martha’s name and insert mine, and this exact statement of Jesus’s would apply to me and my life more than daily. You are anxious and troubled about many things. Wow. I feel certain that if I could take a poll and ask those of you who feel this description fits your life right this second, all the hands would raise. “Lindsey, Lindsey, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” Yep, no doubt Jesus has spoken exactly this so many times. Look closely at that response from our Lord, at the tender way He says her name twice before getting to the real issue: Martha, Martha. When I picture this exchange I see Martha red-faced, sweating, hair askew from all of her frazzled preparations in the hot kitchen. I see her, hands on hips, standing in front of Jesus with that accusatory index finger aimed straight for her lazy, unhelpful sister. And then I see Jesus. I see Him reach for her, taking her hot, damp hands in His while calmly saying, in an almost whisper, “Martha, Martha.” But Jesus doesn’t stop there, He explains to further help Martha see the error of her ways: “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (vs. 42). The teachings of Jesus: the one thing worth being concerned about. Boy, do I get this one wrong so very often.
I don’t believe that Mary had nothing to do but sit there. I don’t believe that Mary was oblivious that her decision was one that irked her sister. I do believe, however, that Mary chose quality over quantity. I believe that she weighed it all out and determined that no matter what was expected of her socially, her first and foremost priority was Jesus Christ.
(PSA: Hide those toes…here we go!) Y’all, we are messing this up BIG TIME. This busyness business that we all have going has got to stop! We are all Marthas. We are all overstressed and overworked and overscheduled and overdrawn and over it. Why are we constantly doing this? What are we giving up so that we can put our kids in 17 different sports each season WHEN THEY’RE FOUR?! What are we giving up so that we can checklist to our friends and post pictures on social media of all the things we do with our kids throughout the year? What are we giving up when we say yes to every single offer made on our time? I’ll answer these questions for you because they all share the same answer: Jesus. People, we are literally giving up Jesus–the presence of Jesus, the Spirit of Jesus, the peace of Jesus, the Word of Jesus–so that we can put more of NOTHING eternal on our plates. This busyness that we so idolize, these full-to-bursting schedules that have us eating out every night and exhausting ourselves, our kids, and our marriages, these things are NOT the things of Jesus. Being still, listening, resting in the presence of God…these are the things of Jesus. Don’t believe me? Do that thing you never have time to do anymore because you have no free time: read your Bible. You’ll be surprised at what you find in there that instructs us to settle ourselves so that we don’t miss God moving and speaking in our lives. Maybe you can’t give 30 minutes or an hour a day to reading your Bible right now, and you know what, that’s okay. God can speak to you in less time than that. BUT. It’s important that we get really honest about our time and our priorities before determining what we can and can’t do. Isn’t 5 or 10 minutes spent with God far better and infinitely more beneficial to you and your family than those 5 or 10 minutes you spend on social media? (And let’s not pretend you’re only spending 5-10 minutes on social media daily.)
Be a Mary, not a Martha. Don’t give Jesus reason to say your name over and over again, concerned because you are so stressed, so distracted, so distant from Him and such a stranger to His Word. I know I haven’t been a parent for very long, but I can promise you this anyway: nothing you enroll your kids in, nothing you haul them all over creation to participate in, nothing that you yourself volunteer your time for will impact them and the rest of their lives like watching their mom and dad carve out precious, necessary time with Jesus. Be a Mary. Stop the hustle and the excess of everything, and decide daily to sit at the feet of Jesus. You won’t miss out on anything. I promise.
Dear Lord, thank you so much that you give of yourself so that I can spend time in your peace, your presence, your Word, and your wisdom. Help me, please, Lord, to re-prioritize my busy life so that instead of an afterthought, you are my main priority. I want to spend time with You and then fit other things into my schedule when/if time allows. This is not easy for me, God. Please help me to heed the Holy Spirit’s guiding so that I can rearrange my life and become more like Mary. Thank you, Lord, for helping me and for hearing me. When it’s all said and done, Lord, I want to desire you and time with you more than anything else. Help me to slow down. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.
Philippians 2:3–Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.