Friday, July 27, 2012

Mind Your Own Business

I knew I wanted to write a post about Martha. She is one of my favorite women in the Bible, mainly because I identify with her faults. She was a devoted follower of Jesus, but she got distracted by her service. That is what I intended to write about. The point is always made that Martha should have set the cooking aside for a moment and focused on Jesus, just like her sister Mary did. And that is true. But when I read all the stories about Martha in the Bible, I was struck by something different. I had never thought about it before, and I would like to share it with you.

We see Martha serving twice in Scripture. The first time, she is feverishly cooking while her sister sits to listen to Jesus (Luke 10:38ff). My kids' story bible shows her with sweat on her brow and a scowl on her face as she stirs something. The second time, she is serving the table while her sister is anointing Jesus's feet with expensive perfume (John 12:1ff). Both times, Martha is doing the behind-the-scenes task while Mary is at Jesus's feet. But Jesus only criticized her the first time.

A close look at Luke's account will tell us why. "And she came up to Him and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.' But the Lord answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her'" (Luke 10: 40-42). Jesus did not correct Martha until after she criticized her sister. Yes, she was missing out on time with Jesus while she made preparations. But Jesus wasn't taking her to task for the work she was doing. He was scolding her for the attitude she had. She was serving with a bitter spirit, and Jesus was not impressed.

I believe she learned from her mistake. Our second scene with Mary and Martha took place after their brother Lazarus was resurrected and immediately before the passion week. Here we find that Martha is not the one who fussed at Mary for using expensive nard on Jesus's feet. Martha was doing what Martha did best, serving at the table. But this time, maybe she was doing so cheerfully.

Have you ever been like Martha? I have. I have taught a Bible class with reproachful feelings for those people who never teach. I have resented doing dishes while my husband plays with the kids. I have grumbled about the number of people who don't help with VBS. How much happier would I be if I performed my service cheerfully, without worrying about what other people are doing or not doing? More importantly, how much happier would God be with my work? Has anyone ever served you resentfully? You probably didn't appreciate the service. You probably would have rather done the work yourself. In teaching Martha, Jesus has let us know that he doesn't like to be served that way either. In doing service for the Lord, let us be cheerful. Let us not be "worried and bothered" by other people's service. 


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