“Martha was distracted by all the preparations ….” Luke 10:40a (NIV)
It’s that time of year again, isn’t it? I love the holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year! As much fun as they are, it’s easy to become distracted by all the preparations, shopping, crowded schedules and dinner parties. As we enter this holiday season, a brief look at the scene in one home might make the one in yours a lot more fun for everyone, including you, especially if you’re the decorator, chef and all-around home décor coordinator. Look with me through the windows at what happens in the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha in Luke 10.
Jesus and His disciples came to a village where a woman named Martha “opened her home to Him.” V. 38 (NIV) What a gracious offer to a man with 12 hungry friends in a day where most people lived from hand to mouth. Remember, they didn’t have refrigeration, microwaves or electric ovens. They didn’t even have a local Boston Market to run to. There’s no indication that this was a scheduled visit, so immediate preparations had to begin if anyone was going to eat. In the scurry to get everything ready, Martha must have noticed Mary’s absence from the kitchen. Where was Mary? As Martha slaved over the stove, she notices Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to what He said. I imagine the potatoes weren’t the only things boiling at this point!
Luke records what happened,
“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him (Jesus) and asked, ‘Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? TELL HER to help me!’” Luke 10:40 (NIV)
Now, there’s an awkward moment! No doubt everyone in the house was silent after Martha’s outburst. I always love it when the Bible reveals the real side of our humanity. How often like Martha do we say, “Lord, don’t You care …. Tell her! Tell him! Tell them to help me!”
Something seems a little strange about us telling God what He needs to do. We still do it sometimes though, don’t we? We do it when we feel distracted by all the preparations, overwhelmed by the tasks at hand and feeling under resourced. We do it when we compare ourselves with others too. Still, don’t you love Jesus’ response? It probably came after a pregnant pause. Without being rattled, Jesus responds calmly but firmly,
“Martha, Martha … you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Vs. 41-42 (NIV)
Ouch! That had to sting a bit. Jesus spoke the truth in love to a distracted woman. Her intentions were sincere. She wanted to prepare the best meal for Jesus and His disciples. Nonetheless, she became so distracted by all the preparations that she got lost in the details. She must have thought that, if she didn’t do this, who would? What she forgot was that, just two chapters back, Jesus had fed over 5,000 people, not including the women and children, with only a kid’s sack lunch. If He could do that, then why not sit at His feet and enjoy the time listening to all He had to say? Remember,
“Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matt. 4:4 (NIV)
Besides, Jesus had not asked Martha to prepare a meal.
The story stops there and leaves us to our imagination with what must have happened next. Did Martha plop herself down alongside her sister? Did she storm back into the kitchen? What would you have done? We can miss the joy of communion with God in the confusion of life. Distracted by all the preparations for which we feel responsible, we can forget why we are doing it. What a tragedy. In your serving, have you found yourself tempted to say to God, “Don’t You care that I’m the only one working here? Tell someone to help me!”
Jesus gave us the balance we need for our souls when He said,
“Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” Matt. 4:10 (NIV)
Are you balancing service with worship? Both are essential, but worship came first. Our service should be the expression of our worship. Service like that maintains the energy and flow of the indwelling Spirit. We realize we are not alone. He is our helper. There is a time to worship and a time to serve.
Be intentional in your schedule this holiday season to balance worship and service. If you are not serving in a ministry, enlist in one today. Find a ministry where you can serve God and others. If it is during the regular worship hour, choose a service from one of the three weekend services where you can worship and serve the other. It will be the best two hours of your week!