Summary: Learn from the lesson of Mary and Martha. Be steadfast in your obligations and fulfill your responsibilities. But do so out of a sense of appreciation for wonder and beauty of God’s love. Be careful about being distracted by too many obligations. Be f
Obligation or Love? (Luke 10:38-42)
I remember one Sunday morning when I was serving as the Associate Pastor of a Community Church in Dunedin in Florida. My wife and I had arrived just a few minutes before the worship service was to begin.
This was much later than was usual for me and as she unbuckled the baby from his car seat I straightened my tie in the mirror and watched something that I had never before seen with such intensity.
Sure, I had seen people go in and out of church lots of times. But that morning there was something very different. It was though God was allowing me to get a sense of the burdens that we carry with us all week long. It was as if He wanted me to know just how heavy and cumbersome those burdens can be.
As I watched the people filing into the church building from their sedans, trucks, and minivans, it occurred to me that each one carried their own invisible burdens. Some carried the burden of guilt for past sins. These hoped that by regularly attending church they would convince God to forgive them.
Countless others carried the load of present failures and disappointments as they filed into the church building. I imagined them wondering if they were worthy of God’s love or even the love of other people.
As I sat watching all of these people, many of whom I knew well, making their way into the church that Sunday I was struck with the sense that so many of us come to church, pray, and generally live out our Christian faith largely out of a sense of obligation rather than a sense of love.
While duty is clearly good and it is right to honor our obligations, this morning I want to encourage you toward something greater. Rather than only experiencing the Christian life in a stoic – duty bound – way, I want to suggest to you that it is possible to live out the Christian life as we are compelled by the beauty of God’s love for us.
Many interpret today’s Scripture to mean that Jesus discourages us to handle our earthly obligations.
Some have wrongly used this passage of Scripture to justify an ascetic lifestyle. They skew the words of Jesus to justify a disconnected Christianity that sees engaging the world’s here and now problems as unspiritual and even idolatrous.
But that is not the message of Jesus at all. In the very same gospel Jesus is seen taking time to pray in order to be filled with strength for upcoming action. The message is not that Martha is an unspiritual busy body while her sister Mary is a spiritual giant.
The real issue at hand is attitude. Mary had chosen to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to the master. She loved Jesus and she wanted to be near Him while Martha, on the other hand, was distracted by her many legitimate obligations.
Jesus is not saying that it is wrong to handle our obligations. Certainly the Scriptures teach us to be diligent in the work that God has given to us. In Proverbs 18:9 it says, “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” (ESV) Undoubtedly, Martha’s working to feed Jesus and the disciples was not the problem.
Jesus is making it clear that our attitude is as important as our actions.
God isn’t looking for a bunch of robots their Sunday best wondering the streets doing good works with a frown on their face. If we do right things as we complain about it, how that supposed to please God or tell the world about God’s love?
He wants to show the world, through us, the beauty of His love. God is looking for faces to smile through and hearts to love through.
Your Heavenly Father is asking you today, “Will you be one of those whom I can love the world through.” Let your hands do His work! But don’t stop there. Let others see His love inside of you. Let them see it in something as simple as a smile, or something far greater – a life lived loving God and people.
The following words were written on the tomb of an Anglican bishop in the crypts of Westminster Abbey:
“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable.
“As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.