Martha felt that it was unfair. She and her sister Mary had invited Jesus to her house, but all Mary was doing was sitting and listening to Jesus while Martha was serving as a diligent hostess. Perhaps Martha felt that Mary habitually avoided work. Perhaps Martha was right. In any regard, Martha wanted everything to be just right for the Master, so she went and asked Jesus to tell her sister to get up and help. His response:
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41).
I thought about the way Jesus responded to her. Here she was, doing what was expected of her. She was doing a good thing. She was being hospitable and generous. However, Jesus said that she was being distracted by the cares of this life, and He commended her sister Mary:
“But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).
Mary needed a big dose of Jesus (so did Martha—she was just unaware of her need).
As I write, it is Christmas. I think of Martha and Mary during our holiday season. So much to do…all good and right things. So many expectations, duties, and responsibilities. While doing all the things that are good and right, I don’t want to get distracted with the cares of the season to the point of “shorting” the things that really matter—intimate time with Jesus and meaningful time with people.
It’s not only during a busy holiday season that we must guard against the Martha syndrome. The workaholic…the person just trying to make ends meet…the one who has abundance…the over-achiever…the soccer mom with an over-full schedule…the person serving in a ministry unto the Lord—we all can easily slip into a works-based mentality and feel guilty if we aren’t doing all the things that we think are expected of us. Jesus warned against this in another passage:
“Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:18-19).
Guilt-minded people often try to make others feel guilt.
Chronic worry about the cares of this life and our responsibilities develops thorny heart soil. A worrier/performer may end up missing out on the good stuff—a big dose of Jesus and people—because of expectations. Jesus desires to keep us free from false guilt, worry, and self-imposed expectations in order that our lives may be fruitful and truly meaningful. Luke 8:15 says it this way:
“…the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”
Jesus breaks up thorny heart soil and replaces it with good and noble soil. He makes us sensitive to what He is sensitive to—the things that really matter. Like Mary, we can maintain a big dose of Jesus, and then fulfill what He requires of us, such as serving, hosting, and meeting responsibilities—all the while staying out of guilt, worry, and distractions. Perceived duties can become delight and joy! The cares of this life will not control us:
…casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).