By Trish Lane
“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.” Luke 10: 41–42
I don’t know if your calendar looks like mine right now… but I’m going to hazard a guess that it does. It seems to go with the territory of the season. It’s not just which nights or days you have free anymore, it’s about scheduling a timetable where every 15-minute interval is accounted for. Fitting in the Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, fulfilling family commitments, attending meetings, the work Christmas parties, friend gatherings and church events… you could probably fill in the blank with more. Then somewhere in there you need to wash clothes, vacuum, shower, eat, and sleep too!
It didn’t dawn on me the irony of this passage and my reflections for this devotion, until I was two days passed the deadline to submit it, and in the midst of describing my hectic week with my friend… whilst we walked at crazy o’clock in the morning.
You see I so get what Martha is feeling when she confronts Jesus. She has graciously opened up her home and she’s been busy cooking for these unexpected guests. She’s been taking careful notice of her lists and checking them twice. She’s trying to make things perfect for Jesus. Is that such a bad thing? I appreciate hard work. I applaud the skill and dedication and servant nature of Martha. She is a woman that gets things done. I must confess that there are times too, when I’ve felt just like Martha, who’s literally been slaving away and noticed her sister Mary blissfully sitting at the feet of Jesus. I’ve wondered too if He even cares. Does He care, that like Martha, I feel like the load I’m carrying is too heavy to bear alone? Sure, I’d love to just sit down, let the world pass by for a while as I sit and soak in the presence of God… but who’s going to get the work done if I do?
I think that’s why I’ve often cringed when this passage is read. It feels like Martha gets in trouble and Mary comes up shining. That is something my perfectionist nature has wrestled with. Perhaps the tendency in a passage like this is to state definitively that Mary is right and Martha is wrong. So I was encouraged, when I studied deeper, to see that Jesus, in His correction of Martha doesn’t say “why can’t you be more like your sister?” He understands that Mary and Martha are two different people. They have two different personalities and temperaments – two different ways of viewing the world, and two different sets of gifting. We’re all different… unique creations of the Living God. Jesus wasn’t in the business of trying to rid Martha of her nature, or discourage her willingness to serve. He knew her innate sense of work, her desire to please, her skill and her discipline. He also knew that there was a way for Martha, in her own skin and space and temperament, to enjoy the ‘better’ that Mary had discovered.
His comment to Martha was less rebuke and more an invitation. It was an invitation to come, to experience something more. The ‘better’ wasn’t just available to Mary; it was available for Martha too. It’s actually available to all of us, regardless of our personality, or our gifting. It is simply the result of a choice that we make.
When I wrestle with the Martha reality of all that I need to do and get done, I realize that there is too, an inner desire to rest in God’s presence like Mary. To have my eye so set on my Saviour that the perspective of my load changes. Mary’s example beckons us… but it was actually Jesus who showed us the key to living in that space. The way to choose the ’better’ and still get done what needs to be done. He knew what it was like to be driven by a timetable. He understood people overload and what it is like to be overwhelmed by needs. I heard recently someone explain that Jesus lived His life travelling from a place of prayer and devotion to a place of prayer and devotion and did miracles in between. He was so in tune with His Father. He so enjoyed the intimacy, the rest, and the fresh vision that came from time with Him.
That’s what Jesus invites Martha to experience and enjoy. It’s the same invitation for you and me too. We have been created to enjoy serving our Great God, to live full and fruitful lives. But our first and primary purpose is to know and experience life in Him. To worship before we ever work. To understand who we are in Jesus and how great our God is, then to know His empowering, His enabling as we carry out the work in His strength. When there is so much to be done, and you’re wondering if you have the time to even read this devotion, can I encourage you to take up the invitation, to follow the whisper and to set aside time to just sit at the feet of Jesus. When we sit in His presence, and allow His voice, His very heartbeat to speak to us, we won’t be shortchanged. We will know Him more deeply and dearly and we will receive all that we need to accomplish the tasks before us – with Him right by our side.
Trish Lane is a pastor at Bridgeman Baptist Community Church in Brisbane. She is passionate about seeing lives transformed by the forgiveness, purpose and hope that is found in Jesus.