My husband and I have been reading through Sinclair Ferguson’s devotional, To Seek and To Save: Daily Reflections on the Road to the Cross. One of the past readings was quite convicting because it reflects much of my Martha personality. I desire to get things done, get them done right, and in the process find myself overwhelmed, agitated, and forgetting “one thing” is necessary.
Let me set the scene quickly here:
We are all familiar with the Mary/Martha moment in Luke 10. Mary is sitting at the Lord’s feet listening to his teaching and Martha is busy in the kitchen. She has a lot of people to feed and imagine the pressure with Jesus being one of them. I tend to get a bit sympathetic towards Martha ;).
Luke 10:40 tells us:
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.”
And Jesus answers Martha:
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.
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Can you relate with me here when Sinclair describes what this possible
Marci Martha moment might look like?:
“On this occasion, Martha broke big time. Can you see her here? She stands right in front of Jesus (‘when she went up to him,’ v.40). She towers over her sister, who is seated at his feet, listening to him. There she is, body rigid, arms like pokers at her side, fists tightly clenched, voice higher-pitched than usual. Then comes the explosion. It is a double complaint: one about Jesus (‘Lord, do you not care?’) and the other about Mary (‘My sister has left me to serve alone’—was she too uptight even to use her name?). And to make matters worse, she tells the Lord exactly what he ought to do about it (‘Tell her then to help me’)!”
I give Martha credit in this scene because she spoke about what was going on inside her out loud. I tend to keep things inside and let the sinful thinking ruminate in my mind. I’ll go over and over it again and again—justifying my thoughts and actions. When I do this, I’ve just made the situation ten times worse, and I start to let bitterness set in.
I can find myself getting ready for company with a to-do list that keeps growing, and my husband can be sitting and relaxing in another room while I’m working away, so my heart is just agitated with him inside. “Doesn’t he see what needs to be done? Why isn’t he offering to help me?”
Now, I need to let you know I am married to a godly, extremely helpful, compassionate man, but his domain isn’t the kitchen. It is my area. I also need to state I don’t tend to hang out in the garage. If I need to use the snowblower because he’s out of town, I’m the one pulling the directions out to try and figure it out. The garage is his domain. It is just how our home functions.
My Doug would be up in a moment if I would ask for his help. But instead of asking, I seem to find more pleasure in letting my thoughts explode inside my head. I am in a mess at this moment. Instead of enjoying my preparation for our guests and missing an opportunity to work alongside my husband by just asking, I go about my work with a grumbling, self-righteous attitude. I am not choosing the good portion that Mary did at this moment (Luke 10:42).
Let me move back to Martha and the text and how Jesus responds to her:
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.
Mr. Ferguson responds to this text:
“Notice how Jesus responds. Like a calm spiritual physician, he traces these symptoms in Martha’s reaction back to the root of the problem. But he also responds like a father. There’s a lot of emotional concern in the way he repeats her name: ‘Martha, Martha’ (v 41). And there is something inexpressibly gentle about the way he puts his finger on the source of this painful inflammation. He doesn’t give her a lecture about losing her temper, or even for that matter about not yielding to God’s providence, or about the importance of better organization and delegating responsibilities.”
Mr. Ferguson continues, and I love this reminder:
“no the Lord’s diagnosis is simpler: Martha has been ‘anxious and troubled about many things, but one this is necessary’ (v41-41).”
There are many things we can do when the task list is long. We can simplify it, we can focus on “Doing the Next Thing,” or we can ask for help. All those things are good things to consider when our plates are full, but what Jesus wants to get to is the heart of the issue.
We’ve lost focus on Him.
We get so busy “supposedly” serving Him through our serving others, and we miss Jesus. When we lose sight of our Savior amid our ordinary tasks, we are missing out on the good portion
but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
We must not let the distractions of this world ever make us lose focus on the “one thing” that is most important. These distractions can be good things and usually, they are in the care of our homes and families. Tasks we need to attend to. We need Martha’s, and we need Mary’s. The problem with Martha wasn’t the tasks before her, but the attitude as she went about them. Mary and Martha both need to be cultivated in our hearts.
“The condition of a servant well becomes every Christian. Her fault was that she grew encumbered with much serving so that she forgot him and only remembered the service.”
As we spend time at the Lord’s feet, listening and learning from Him as Mary did, we will go about our tasks focusing on the “one thing.” When our priorities are in the right order and focused on the goodness of Jesus in the gospel, we will go about our tasks with a right and joyful heart attitude, giving thanks in all things.
If serving Christ makes us difficult to live with, then something is terribly wrong with our service! The key is to have the right priorities: Jesus Christ first, then others, then ourselves.
As we love God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, the natural outflow will be love for others. Loving others means serving with a joy-filled spirit and not one that is critical and demanding. Take the time to sit at the Lord’s feet and worship and meditate on His Word.
To Seek and to Save: Daily Reflections on the Road to the Cross by Sinclair Ferguson