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Editor’s note: This column was originally published in the May 26, 2017, edition of “The Coosa County News.”
Mary and Martha were two sisters who were as different as night and day.
We find Martha as the poster girl for the “Perfect Hostess.” If there had been television stations in those days, she would have hosted a show called “Maratha of the Village,” featuring the best and most innovative ways to prepare a meal for vagabond visitors who came calling at a moment’s notice.
I am sure she loved to entertain, as long as they gave an advance notice of their arrival time, number of guest and length of stay. She would have been kind enough to provide refreshments, keeping a keen eye on who needed refills or dishes removed.
Martha is a perfectionist and yet, she is her own worst enemy. She sets expectations that she can never meet. She is never able to completely rest and be content. Life for Martha is always an unfinished task.
Then there is Mary, Martha’s sister. She is not much into the hostess scene. It is not that Mary does not enjoy having company drop in for a visit. Mary is more interested in conversation. Planning meals, serving refreshments, seeing to the needs of the guest are not her style of life. When you drop in at Mary’s house for a visit she may have you go fetch your own glass of iced tea.
Mary cares; she cares for conversation and relational living. She takes life as it comes. Material comforts and hostess graces are not that important to her.
In Luke 10:38-42 we discover an occasion where the stark contrast between these two sisters, Martha and Mary, is obvious.
We find Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha is busy “with much serving.” Mary is enthralled as she sits at the feet of the savior; Martha is enraged as she busily paces back and forth from the kitchen to the living room.
Martha welcomed Jesus into her house. (Luke 10:38) Since it appears the visit was not planned, she still opens her home and heart to this precious friend. Yet, such a short notice would mean much work to do if her guest were going to be gathered around the table.
It did not take long for Martha to become stressed and angry at the fact that Mary was sitting while she was serving. Martha directed her anger towards Jesus (Luke 10:40). She is essentially saying “Lord, if you really cared about me you would rebuke my sister Mary and tell her to get in the kitchen.”
It would be easy to focus on Martha’s apparent frustration and anger, but we need to consider her in a little different light. Martha is not really a bad person. She is a woman of dedication and she is a doer. She is someone who can be counted on when you need her.
Thank God for the Martha’s of the world!
This story is not in the Bible to teach us that serving is bad and that sitting is good. This is a story about maintaining a much-needed balance in life.
There were more important things to do than housework and preparing supper. What Jesus desired was not dinner, but devotion. Martha was “worried and troubled about many things.” Martha’s worried and anxious heart would not find rest in serving (trying harder and doing more) but by sitting at the feet of Jesus and finding rest in His presence.
Recognize that you are human. Like all humans we fall short (Romans 3:23). We cannot make it in life without Jesus Christ — His grace and power. Even Marthas need Jesus.
Second, give Jesus Christ complete control of your life. Simply said, don’t try to be superwoman (or superman for that matter) but let Christ give you His peace and rest. Jesus’ words still ring true for us today: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden [distracted, anxious, tired, frustrated], and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Until next time…
Dr. Jeff Fuller is pastor of the Rockford Baptist Church in Rockford, Ala. You may reach him through the church office at 256-377-4900 or by email at email@example.com.