Distracted with Much Serving
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Are you distracted with much serving? I know I am. From the moment my feet hit the floor, I am serving my family. I am even serving them in the wee morning hours and late, late at night. Back before I had kids, I identified more with Mary. I tried to wake up early enough before work to spend at least my first 15-20 minutes with Jesus. I’d read my Bible and write in a prayer journal. Then, I’d sing praises the whole half hour drive to work. I just loved to sit at His feet. By 8 AM, I had spent a great deal of time with my Lord and Savior to start my day.
But now, I can’t seem to wake up early enough to beat my kids awake. Rather than writing my prayers out in a journal, I find myself praying “on the fly.” Instead of contemporary worship songs, I am often singing “Jesus Loves Me” while my squirmy 9-month-old wrestles me and fights sleep. Instead of sitting at the feet of Jesus before 8 AM, I usually grumble and gripe at my beloved family members all before 8 AM.
My heart grumbles things like, “Why am I the only one that can find the missing shoe?” “Why do I have to ask so many times for you to get ready for school?” “Can’t someone help me clean up this mess?” Now, I have to point out that I have an amazing husband who does more than his fair share. And yet, I often get so focused on serving my family that my vision becomes self-centered. “Doesn’t anybody care that I am doing all of this for everyone else?”
So whenever I read the story of Martha and Mary, I get a bit defensive for Martha. I mean, I can totally relate. Why didn’t her sister, Mary help her? It wasn’t too much to ask. Good grief, couldn’t they have worked together to get the meal served and the dishes done sooner so they both could sit at Jesus’s feet? But Martha was missing the point and it appears that she was serving with a bad attitude. And sadly, I often do, too.
Sisters, it’s a heart issue. In Martha’s defense, I believe her heart started in the right place. Notice that she “welcomed Him into her house.” She knew Jesus was worth welcoming and she gladly let Him in. But sadly, she let all of the details of hosting Jesus overwhelm her so that she was missing Jesus Himself. Serving Jesus is important. But it isn’t the most important thing. Jesus Himself is the most important thing.
My friend Elizabeth Spencer put it this way, “The thing is, Martha wasn’t doing a bad thing; she just wasn’t doing the better thing.” It is good to serve Jesus. Someone needed to work in order to feed Him and meet the party’s needs. But knowing Jesus is better. Our service in Jesus’s name doesn’t save us, Jesus Himself saves us. Mary knew this so she chose Him while He could be found. She knew that acts of service in His name are temporary but having a relationship with Jesus Christ is eternal.
We also see Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet the week of Passover - the week Jesus was crucified. John 12:1-8 tells the story of how Martha was again serving but this time, Mary was anointing Jesus’s feet with an expensive ointment of pure nard, preparing His body for burial. But she is again criticized for her worship. Not by Martha this time but by Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. He said Mary should have sold the ointment and given the money to the poor. But Jesus once again defends Mary’s actions. Matthew 26:6-13 also tells this story. Matthew shares that Jesus said, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me” (verse 10).
The WORD about women in the story of Martha and Mary is that serving Jesus is good but sitting at His feet is best. Welcoming Him into your life is good but worshiping Him is the best thing you could ever do. Sister, don’t get so busy working for Him that you forget to know Him personally. Sit at His feet a while today.
How can you serve Jesus this week? How can you spend time with Jesus this week?
Jesus, like Martha, I welcome You into my home and my life. It is an honor and privilege to serve You. But Lord, remind me to sit a while at Your feet every day. Knowing You is what matters most. Amen.
We look forward to your comments and questions below!