Summary: Are we disciples who struggle constantly to keep up with our commitments to Christ or do we follow Him in a way that our work flows out of His will for us.
“Careful or Carefree Hospitality”
INTRODUCTION: In today’s scripture Martha invited Jesus and his disciples to her house so that He would have a place to teach. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived in the town of Bethany; and Martha the older sister, was the hostess. She genuinely wanted everything to be just right for Jesus--good food and everything to make her guests comfortable. Mary, on the other hand, sat at the “feet of Jesus” forgetting all about helping Martha with the preparations. Mary takes the place of a disciple by sitting at the feet of Jesus. It was unusual for a woman in first century Judaism to be accepted by a teacher as a disciple. From the custom of sitting “beneath” an instructor, the phase “sitting at one’s feet” came to mean being his disciple. Paul “sat at the feet” of Gamaliel in Acts 22. Martha may have found herself overwhelmed by the amount of work she had taken on to be the hostess that day for so many people. Maybe she hadn’t learned to delegate to other people. She became distracted by many things to the point where she was stressed out that day. It had become care-ful hospitality rather than care-free. How does this scripture speak to us today?
1. Losing Our Focus: We live in a world of Marthas. We value productivity. Martha wanted to make sure everything was just right for Jesus. She may have been the Martha Stewart of her day without all the extra help. In the process of doing something nice, however, she LOST HER FOCUS. Scripture says she was “care-ful_ or distracted by many things. She had many tasks to juggle that day and so do we in our 21st century lifestyle. What started out to be a joy became a demand--a lot of which she placed on herself. She started out to create a comfortable space for Jesus to teach in but she lost sight of her mission.
Sometimes Martha gets criticized for being the person who is “going and doing” and Mary gets the praise for “sitting and listening,” but I don’t think this is what Jesus was trying to point out in this scripture. Earlier in the chapter in the parable of the Good Samaritan He said, “go and do,” but in this chapter He is trying to teach also that it is necessary to also “sit and listen” as well. There needs to be a balance in our Martha lifestyles not only to “go and do” but to include Mary’s “sitting and listening.”
Jesus does not condemn her for being a good hostess. He tells her the problem is that she is becoming ANXIOUS and TROUBLED over all these things. She has lost her PERSPECTIVE of why she was serving in the first place. She missed out on hearing what Jesus had to say that day because she was focusing on the distractions and the CARES or Worries of the day.
APPLICATION: How often we do the same thing. Even our work FOR the Lord can cause us to be troubled and anxious. If so, we, too, have forgotten why we are serving.
When we become distracted, we become overwhelmed, frustrated, and worried. Martha was being pulled in a lot of directions that she became angry and resentful. She was losing her sense of peace and joy. Today you know people who have lost their peace. You know people who are agitated and churned up inside. Maybe it’s you. Have you become distracted and careful? Have you lost your focus?