Summary: Learning from Martha and Mary, find out how to benefit from the quiet times with the Lord.
Dear family in Christ, do you love the Lord but sometimes get so busy you don’t have much time for Him? Are you one of those people who would like to worship more often but are so pressured by a busy schedule that you only end up in frustration? Are you a ‘Martha’?
That’s right! The familiar story is before us again. Mary and Martha. Martha does all the work. Mary sits and listens to Jesus. Mary is praised, Martha is criticized, or at least it seems that way. The Lord knows over the years I have sufficiently tarnished Martha’s character, even though I must admit that I have been much like her all along. Well, it is time to bring a little bit of balance into this.
It is no coincidence that Luke places the account of Mary and Martha right after the Good Samaritan parable. The good Samaritan engaged in action, helping the injured victim. Jesus ended the parable by saying, Go and do likewise! That story teaches us to “walk the talk;” this one, to “talk the walk,” or at least engage in a conversation. Together, these two Bible lessons call us to maintain balance in our lives.
There is a physical side of life and a spiritual side of life, and for as long as we wake up every morning we need to keep them in proper balance. Otherwise, we are liable to become full-time religious philosophers or stressed out workoholics burning the candle at both ends.
Let’s look at the story again. Jesus and His disciples came to a village where a woman named Martha invited them into her house. Jesus and His disciples – that’s at least 13 people, maybe more. It was a custom of that day, even a sacred duty, to extend full hospitality to a visitor, which certainly included a meal. In many cultures that custom prevails till this day.
In our Old Testament lesson we learned how Abraham treated his special visitors. He provided water for them to wash their feet, had Feta cheese and milk brought in, Sarah baked bread, and servants were preparing the Wiener Schnitzel.
Well, Martha probably didn’t have to prepare a fatted calf, but with so many people coming, she certainly had her hands full. Martha was between the proverbial rock and a hard place. On the one hand, she loved the Lord; on the other, she accepted the obligation of a hostess. I don’t think she was trying to show off by fixing some extravagant meal. The text talks about all the preparations that had to be made.
Just imagine what it would be like if 13, 15, or 20 people converged on your house and you had to feed them. But – no Pizza Hut, no Kentucky Fried Chicken, no freezer, no microwave. Everything from scratch, cooked over the fire. Alone. Yeah, she didn’t count on little sister deserting her.
Do you know what it’s like to cook food when you have to kill it first? Have you ever plucked a chicken by hand? Here is a little tip: dip it first in boiling water. It makes the feathers come out easier. And I don’t have to share details about what you have to do next before the chicken is ready for cooking. Folks, this is no Galloping Gourmet! Don’t tell me you don’t sympathize with Martha!
The poor woman suddenly realized that no matter how hard she tried, she would not be able to do it all by herself. Frustration set it. First, it’s the “poor me” syndrome. “Oh dear, I am left here all alone to do all this work, and no one will come to help me,” usually accompanied by deep and loud sighs.
Soon, feeling sorry for herself turns to resentment. “Would you look at that lazy Mary! What does she think she is? Some kind of a princess? Doesn’t she know she is supposed to be here?” Every once in a while she throws the stink eye in Mary’s direction, who is just sitting there listening totally oblivious to what is going on in the kitchen. Then, resentment turns to anger that grows by the minute. You can feel the tension building up. Finally, poof! The lid goes off. Wide eyed, veins popping, she throws the apron on the ground, she marches into the living room and reads the riot act – not to her sister, but to Jesus! “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Do any of you recognize yourselves? I do. Been there, done that. Let’s analyze what happened to see what we can learn from it. First of all, Martha bit off more than she could chew. Has that ever happen to you? You took on more responsibilities that you could handle? How often we get ourselves into trouble because we don’t know how to say “No,” or think we can carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. In Martha’s case, this episode happened after Jesus miraculously fed the five thousand. Don’t you think He could have just as easily feed 20 people? But Martha thought it was her responsibility.