"Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things" (
Mary and Martha were two sisters who were as different as night and day. Martha was the picture of the perfect hostess. She loved to entertain company; of course, as long as they called in advance. If they had such magazines in her day, Martha certainly would have been a subscriber to Southern (Bethany) Living and Better Homes and Gardens. The Bible does not tell us, but perhaps her last name was even Stewart! 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.
On the other hand, Mary, Martha's sister, is not much into the hostess scene.
It's not that Mary does not also enjoy having company over, but Mary is more interested in conversation than the day's menu. When you drop in at Mary's house for a visit she may have you go fetch your own glass of iced tea. It's not that Mary doesn't care. Mary just takes life as it comes and material comforts and hostess graces are just not that important to her.
One time when Jesus was at the home of Mary and Martha, Mary broke a very expensive bottle of fragrant perfume and she anointed Jesus with oil (
Martha directed her anger towards Jesus (
It's easy to focus on Martha's apparent frustration and anger, but I want you to consider her in a little different light. Martha is not really a bad person. In fact, she is a woman of dedication and she is a doer. I can just imagine that she is the kind of woman that probably seldom complains, seldom misses the smallest details, and she can always be counted on when you need her. Martha is certainly a commendable woman. 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. Under different circumstances serving may have been the best course of action.
Instead, this is a story about maintaining a much-needed balance in life. It's a story about the need to recognize that we are human, we stumble, and we fall short. It's a story about being human and how we desperately need to realize just how human we are. It's a story about setting priorities and making the best choices in life. In life we are not usually confronted with choices that are outright good vs. bad! Those are the easy ones to make. But, oh how difficult are the everyday choices between what is good and what is best!
In this instance (
How do you know the difference between choosing what is good and what is best at any given time? You have to examine your life below the superficial level of outward appearances. If only Martha could have stopped long enough to see herself as Jesus did, then she could have seen that her life was filled with busyness but inside she was running on empty. Her life was one of frustration and distractions. Her calendar was filled with activities and engagements (good things) but she was missing out on the best things in life.
Jesus was saying to Martha, "Martha, you're not superwoman! You need to slow down. You need to re-prioritize your life." Martha was caught up in what many of us are snared in today — the performance trap. In Martha's mind she had to do it all. She was always setting expectations she could never meet. If the truth be known Martha probably did not like herself very much. She could not accept herself and as a result she could not accept others. What Mary knew and what Martha needed to know was that in a devoted relationship with Jesus Christ God's unconditional love and grace are experienced and we are set free from the bondage of the performance trap. Martha needed to know that she was not superwoman and that was ok. Martha needed to know what we so desperately need to know today. That in Jesus Christ we are set free from a life that seeks to only please others, and we are set free form a life of trivial pursuit and emptiness.
How about you? Is your life filled with purpose and peace or does your life look more like Martha's life — stressed and frayed? When you accept Christ then you are able to accept yourself and you become empowered to accept others. There is good news for the "bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt out!" That good news is that you can experience God's rest and acceptance today. Where do you start? First, recognize that you are human. Like all humans we fall short (
Joe Alain is Pastor of First Baptist Church of Port Allen, LA.