“Martha, Martha…” What Will You Choose?
I think I will forever be a Martha. This is truly a woman to whom I can relate. I will always be a Mary, too. If I lived two-thousand years ago, I’m sure we’d be amazing friends. Mary always chose Jesus, and took risks to love Him that no one else took. Both of these women served Him, but in very different ways. These women, like so many sisters, are very different people (see Luke 10:38-42 and John 11:1 – 12:11).
Despite their differences, I am a blend of each. I understand them both.
The infamous story of Martha and Mary has been one written about for years, and while Mary is generally thought of as the young, sweet, and pious one; Martha is someone we have supposed to be unkind, harsh, and even punishing. In short, Martha gets a bad rap as an old(er) nagging hag. But I will tell you, Martha had a genuine heart for service. This woman had a lot on her plate. As the one who managed the home of two dependent siblings, she juggled endless tasks that orbited her world, and like all of us who serve, she was burdened with the demands her service required.
There are times when the LORD will call to me. Do you know what He says?
And when He says this, He’s actually calling to the Mary in me who longs to be in His presence and hear His voice. There could be no sweeter invitation from Him.
That is enough to get my attention. He knows my heart, and although I am a busy woman who is encumbered by many things, all I have to hear is His affectionate voice wooing me with those words, and I melt like butter. Like Martha, I often make the wrong choice, putting my service above the One whom I serve.
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her,” (Luke 10:38-42, KJV).
I can very easily roll my eyes at reading this. I can hear His voice; His tone; and the loving invitation that gently beckons Martha away from her “cares” and “troubles”.
Mary lives with Martha. This is a problem.
I can see this so clearly. They are all in the house now — all fifteen of them. Thirteen hungry and tired men; dirty feet; sweaty clothes — and not enough of anything to go around. Martha had to get on it quick, and she expected Mary to help. But where’s Mary? Well, she’s sitting at Jesus’ feet! As for Lazarus, he is exempt.
Okay, everybody… Martha is miffed. And not only does she expect Mary to help, but she expects Jesus to care. Martha has e-x-p-e-c-t-a-t-i-o-n-s. And they are not being met.
In fact, Jesus is apparently oblivious. So, Martha speaks up. Ahem. May I translate? “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to serve? Make her help me!”
Fat chance, Martha.
Believe me, I get this. I mean, I really, really get this.
Like many of you, I am both women trapped in the same body. It drives me crazy. To this day, I struggle choosing. I can have a laundry list of things to do, places to go, and people to see — and in the center of that whirlwind the Lord will call me to Himself.
And sometimes I feel like I’m looking at Him like He’s crazy. Doesn’t He care? Is He oblivious to the fact that I need help?
Case and point: These are two diametrically opposed women. Like Martha, I am complaining that Mary doesn’t help. And if I can slip into “Mary-mode” nothing gets done. Yet, I’m always happiest being Mary — even if I am restless with the feeling of life being somewhat disordered, unsettled and chaotic.
Can you relate?
Martha truly expected Jesus to chide Mary into helping. Seriously, she did. Absolutely. Can you see it? Martha mistook His deference as not caring. Did you get that part? Read it again. It’s there — and it’s pretty loud.
But He did care. He cared about Martha’s “cares”. He saw them as a hindrance to what was truly needed, instead of an evidence of the need itself. His goal was to put those cares in their place so Martha could take hers.
I am fully convinced Martha has a good heart. She loves to serve. She’s diligent and she loves hospitality. But she’s encumbered and troubled in her serving. She spins, toils and strives. And who can blame her? Let’s remember the context: She had thirteen sweaty, hungry, dirty, tired men in her house! And her sister checked out to sit at Jesus’ feet. I can understand her gripe. Do you think Martha was rolling her eyes? Perhaps frowning? You bet.
And did Mary come and help her? Negative. What makes this story even better is that Jesus protected Mary’s choice, even despite Martha’s need — which was actually nothing more than what she thought was Christ’s need.
We all struggle being Martha, when what we really need is to be Mary. What we must realize is that Christ has a preference when we’re being pulled.
Choosing the ‘Good Part’
I often wonder how it would have played out if Martha skipped all the serving and sat at Jesus’ feet. What if Martha checked out? Do you think anyone would have minded? Perhaps. But do you think Jesus would have asked her to serve instead?
I don’t see that happening.
They simply would’ve eaten a different fare that day — one that was of spiritual meat rather than physical.
Christ made it clear that only one thing is needful — and that was the “good part” — to be in His presence hearing His word. We do not live by bread alone, but on every word of God that proceeds from the mouth of God. Before we are going to be effective in our services, we must choose the good part.
Christ desired Martha’s company. He loved her just as much as He loved the others, but He let her choose, even as He let Mary choose. Her initial tantrum actually opened a door for Him to reveal that choice she already made, and that she was also free to change it…
…to become unencumbered.
…to be in His presence.
…to hear His Word.
…to enjoy His company.
…to be freed from her cares and troubles and enter His rest.
Christ will always honor the one who chooses Him first, even when it means service has to wait and things don’t get done as planned. That is not to endorse irresponsible living, but we must realize that what Christ considers “needful” is prioritized differently. Sometimes things “need” to wait.
He understood that moment with Him that day would be a rare occasion that may not present itself again — especially anytime soon.
What did Martha miss?
Did she change her mind?
From a scriptural standpoint, we don’t know. But I think I can make a very good educated guess. Honestly, I’m doubtful. Why? Because I’ve been Martha far too many times, and once Martha gets going she doesn’t stop. Martha is the queen of multi-tasking. With that said, I bet that when she looked back, she realized just how precious that opportunity with Jesus in her home truly was. And I bet she wished she had made a different decision. As I sit here writing this, I want to cry for her. I honestly cannot even imagine it. That kind of reckoning, for me, would have been a severely painful regret that would be difficult to live with. Oh, what Martha missed…
Do you think Mary looked back on that day with regret? No way.
Sometimes opportunities come to us with the Lord that we take for granted. He’s so close… He’s calling to us… He’s right there… and yet we miss Him because we make the wrong choice. It’s very momentary; sometimes even immediate. We must learn to choose quickly. Those intimate moments with Him are very precious, and we need to give Him the time and space He deserves — especially when He comes to visit us in our own house.
What have you missed because you failed to choose time with Him over your “cares” and “troubles”?
Sadly, Martha truly believed she was doing what was most “needful”. She wholeheartedly believed she was doing what the LORD and His disciples expected. In her heart, she was providing a very necessary, and perhaps even dire service. What she did not realize is that He wanted her company more than her service.
Christ will always value you and your company above what you can do for Him.
The next time you feel like Martha, know that you also have a choice. You can choose to be Mary. Sometimes we have to sacrifice and pay the price to choose the Lord. Things may not get done as we planned. That’s okay. That is a sacrifice He will always honor. When we choose Him, He will protect that choice.
Martha and Mary both made choices that day. He let them choose.
What will you choose?
Cheers & Shalom,
Image Credit: Geralt | Pixabay