Summary: Is it possible to serve the Lord out of habit rather than out of love? An examination of Martha and Mary illustrate the cost of a loss of focus.
A Study of the Book of Luke
Sermon # 27
Duty vs. Devotion
What brought you here today? Was it a sense of duty, you feel a sense of obligation, a responsibility to the Lord for all that he has done for you. Is it possible to serve the Lord out of habit rather than out of love?
In Luke chapter ten Jesus has been discussing with a Jewish religious leader the two great commands of the Scripture: that we are to love God with all our heart, mind and soul and that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus has just used the story of “The Good Samaritan” to illustrate how we should love our neighbor and now he uses the story of two sisters, Martha and Mary, to illustrate how we should love God.
The story that we are going to read about today (Luke 10:38-42) takes place in the village of Bethany which is located just outside of Jerusalem. From what we can glean from this passage and in John chapters 11 and 12, Martha lived with her sister Mary and their later to be famous brother Lazarus. It appears that Martha is a widow for she is the head of the household. Here in the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus Jesus and his disciples sit down for some relaxation away from the press of the crowds. Here is a home that Jesus had been many times, a place that he knew He was loved and accepted. Both sisters are delighted to see Jesus but as you will see they express their enthusiasm in very different ways. In verse thirty-eight we are told, “Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. (39) And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.”
People have varying temperaments; some are active always needing to be busy, never able to sit still. Others are thoughtful, willing to sit back and think things through. Martha is a very activity-oriented person, her sister appeared to be of the more thoughtful nature. I believe that we many times have wrongly contrasted Martha and Mary, as though each Christian should make a choice to either be a worker like Martha or a worshipper like Mary. But in so doing I think we miss the point, the Lord wants each of us to imitate Mary in our worship and Martha in our work, and to achieve balance in both.
Mary is content to sit at Jesus’ feet soaking up the Word, and not “do” anything. But her big sister, Martha was looking around at all the guest and sees the need to prepare a meal. Martha was obviously a great hostess; she got up and began to prepare food for Jesus and all those there with Him. Martha looked and said to her self “What privilege to prepare a meal for the Master!” Mary on the other hand would have said, “What a privilege to sit at the feet of the Master.” Is one right and the other wrong? No. Duty and Devotion are both necessary but there must be a balance.
Every action, every relationship, every institution has a basic focus, which is its reason for existence if it hopes to succeed; if loses that focus it will fail. When you lose your focus, which why you do what you do, then you are in trouble. This morning I want us to look at this story and what it teaches about the cost of a loss of focus.
1. Loss Of Focus Caused Martha To Resort To Self-Pity (v. 40)
All of you ladies can know what enter-taining unplanned visitor’s is like and why Martha is flustered and feeing more and more frustrated with each passing moment. The first part of verse forty tells us, “But Martha was distracted with much serving,…” the sense of the word translated “distracted” here is “to be pulled away” or “dragged away.” The implication is that Martha wanted to hear Jesus herself, she wanted to be seated at his feet too, but she was pulled away by her sense of her “duties.” Fretting about the meal has robbed her of the joy of her service to the Lord. We should of course, take our responsibilities seriously, but not ourselves to the point that we overestimate our importance. The problem did not lie in the work that Martha was doing. It was the attitude that she was doing it with that became the problem. Martha’s problem was one of balance, between the going and doing and the sitting and listening.
My greatest fear in saying that is that is that someone out there who is doing nothing will gratefully say “Amen” to what they think I said, and so excuse themselves from doing anything except ‘sitting”. The truth is that there are too many ‘sitters” now. The difference between Martha and Mary is not that one served and the other did not, but one served out of duty and the other out of devotion.