Friday, October 21, 2011

Mary or Martha?

Are you more like Mary or like Martha? (Luke 10:38-42) Surprisingly, many of us identify with Martha because doing, serving, and complaining suit us better than being, receiving, and listening.

When we keep busy, particularly if we are busy with Christian service, we feel like we are accomplishing something important. The rewards are usually tangible, as we may see hungry people getting fed, more people sitting in the church pews, or more tithes or donations to missions. We may feel that we are at least in part responsible for that measurable success. People may even notice our labor and thank us for it or give us positions of greater responsibility.

But if others don’t notice our efforts and accomplishments, or if we feel saddled with the lion’s share of the hard work, we may get angry and even complain, perhaps even to those we are serving.

Both Martha and her sister Mary loved Jesus dearly and believed He was the Son of God, and Jesus loved them (John 11:1-27). Martha showed her love by opening her home to Him and making sure everything was perfect for His visit. No doubt she had planned the meal long in advance and saved money to purchase the best ingredients to prepare His favorite foods. On the day He would come she must have cleaned every corner of the house, picked flowers to decorate the home, and perfumed the air with spices and the aroma of freshly baked bread. When He arrived, she may have washed His feet and plumped the pillows where He would sit, and then began cooking the delicious meal.

No wonder she became frustrated, running from hearth to table, as she practically tripped over Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet! Mary sat listening to His every word, instead of helping her sister prepare the meal. Martha’s anger caused her to lash out at Jesus, the very One Whom all her hard work was to honor!

But the Lord’s response was not what Martha had hoped for. Instead of rebuking Mary and telling her to help Martha with serving, Jesus acknowledged Martha’s concerns and her efforts, but praised Mary for her choice. Being in Jesus’ presence was precious to Mary, and she savored every loving smile and tender word He gave her, which could never be taken from her.

God created us for His good pleasure, for intimate fellowship with Him (Ephesians 1:4-9; Philippians 2:13). If we spend all our time working, even for good causes, and distracted by the noisy pleasures and demands of the world, we will have no time to hear His voice and feel His love. Those lost moments, the sweet fellowship we can share, and His wisdom specific to the task at hand, will never be regained. A wise theologian once said that he was too busy not to pray! Jesus set the example by starting each day alone in the company of His Father, and praying often (Luke 3:21; 5:16; 11:1-4; Matthew 26:36).

Psalm 46:10: Be still, and know that I am God:

When I was a medical intern, a wise attending physician used to say, “Don’t just do something – stand there.” When faced with a crisis, it’s a natural instinct to rush around doing this and that in an effort to “help.” But that can be the worst possible response when the patient is suffering from an unknown condition. As the doctor administers different drugs or procedures that mask the symptoms, it may become more difficult to diagnose the actual problem, and the interventions may actually be harmful. It is often far better to observe the patient as the disease reveals itself, and to listen to those with more experience who are far better equipped to guide the evaluation and treatment.

Similarly, if we respond to a crisis or even to the demands of Christian life by rushing about in our own flesh, we often make things worse instead of better. If we’re floundering in the middle of stormy seas, swimming against the current may actually take us further from the shore. Far better to conserve our strength by resting in His embrace, waiting for His voice to guide us to safety.

Oswald Chambers: You have no idea of where or how God is going to engineer your future circumstances, and no knowledge of what stress and strain is going to be placed on you either at home or abroad. And if you waste your time in overactivity, instead of being immersed in the great fundamental truths of God’s redemption, then you will snap when the stress and strain do come. But if this time of soaking before God is being spent in getting rooted and grounded in Him, which may appear to be impractical, then you will remain true to Him whatever happens.

May God grant us the wisdom to be good stewards of the time, resources, and talents He has blessed us with, using them to serve Him, yet always returning quietly to His feet, content to be His child, following His guidance, filled with His love, joy and peace.


Karen Kyle Ericson said...

I think I am both Mary and Martha. I love my quiet time with the Lord. And also work very hard sometimes so much so, I don't get my exercise or eat right. When I'm centered on Him the day goes much better : ) Great post!

Nadwra┼╝liwiec said...

In me there are both Mary and Martha. Sometimes it is very important for me to work at home and do it well, but also I spend time on reading Bible and talk to my Lord. Heartly greetings!

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Karen! Thanks for the kind words and comment! It's so true that keeping our focus on Him and listening to His voice puts order, peace and purpose even in the most stressful day. Hope you make time to care for your body also -- after all, it is His temple!
Love in Christ,

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Zim, I agree, I'm a Mary and Martha also. It's a blessing that the Bible tells about real people whom we can relate to and learn from. Thanks as always for your comment, and may you have a blessed week in Him!

Saleslady371 said...

This is a great message of encouragement to put priorities in order just as Jesus modeled. It is so easy to "help" in the flesh.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Saleslady371,

Thanks so much for your kind words and comment! May your week be blessed!

Anonymous said...

amen.! nice post thanks for sharing..shalom! loves from holland..

Laurie Collett said...

Dear soraya3, Thanks so much for visiting and for your kind words! Holland is a lovely country -- we visited Amsterdam and surrounding areas a few years ago and really enjoyed it!
Shalom Aleschem to you also! Laurie

Mel said...

Wow, what Oswald Chambers had to say was powerful. What a great devotion to read today! I am both a Mary and Martha. I am a planner so that when my guests arrive, I can sit and be Mary. But in life, I can run around like Martha and get upset that no one is helping. I like the "don't just do something, stand there" - That is great advice in such a busy world!

Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

Donald Fishgrab said...

Martha so typifies the workaholic, who are convinced they doing everything out of love but can't take time to show their love to their family. It destroys so many homes, but it destroys many ministries as well. Thanks for the reminder.

Sara G said...

I was a Martha for a long time but becoming more a Mary. When you have a health issue (or any issue) that God allows, He does for many purposes but most importantly to bring people closer to Him. I was busy, had to be perfect in chores and housework, preparing food and all my family needs and any visitor. Now I have (or had to) slowed down to see all around and spend time with the Lord and my family. Thanks for your post. Have a blessed day!

Ian Curtis said...

I'm sometimes a Martha out of a feeling of necessity, and a Mary whenever I can muster some still, quiet time in the word or prayer to be alone with my God. Those moments always steer the course of my day, otherwise I feel like I'm ready to burst at any given moment.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Mel,
Thanks so much for visiting & commenting -- I hope you'll consider following too!
Oswald Chambers is a real blessing -- I read the daily entry from My Utmost for His Highest just before bedtime and am always amazed by his insights. If we can just remember to "Be still, and know that [He is] God," we would be much better off!
I really enjoyed the Christian comedy clips on Trailing After God and now I'm following by email.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear dfish,
That's an excellent point -- the workaholic often isn't just selfishly tied up in their own advancement, but trying in a misguided way to offer love through material things rather than time and attention. The world's emphasis on materialism just makes it worse. Of course it's important for husbands (or single moms) to provide financially for their family, but provision of themselves means so much more to their wife and children. And if pastors/church leaders can't manage their priorities at home, they are unlikely to be effective at church, either.
Thanks as always, and God bless you!

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Sara G,
Thanks so much for your comment and for following Saved by Grace!
Your comment is so true, that sometimes God allows illness or other trial into our life to keep us from the "busyness" and to focus on Him instead. It's an example of Romans 8:28, how what appears at first to be a burden becomes a blessing as it gives us new perspective on what is important, and on what is more of a "weight" that keeps us from God's best.
May you have a blessed week in Him!

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Ian,
Yes, the world clamors for us to be like Martha, when the real blessings of love and peace are found in Mary's place, at Jesus' feet. When we take the time to start there, we are so much better able to face whatever comes our way.
Thanks as always for your thoughtful comment, and may God bless you and your ministry.

Pastor Coleman said...

Hi Laurie,
I found your blog at MYCMA. It's nice to meet a fellow Floridian and blogger. Thank you for your ministry of encouragement in Christ through the Word. Pastor Paul Coleman

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Pastor Paul! It's lovely to meet you too! Thank you so much for your kind comment and for following Saved by Grace. I'm glad you found it from MyCMA, and as a result I found and am now following your "Bible Gems for Friendship" blog also! May God bless you, your family, and your church.

Charlotte said...

I think I am more like Mary. My mother was definitely a Martha type. She jumped in and helped even when help wasn't wanted. I think it affected my attitude. We need Marys and Marthas both. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on both.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Charlotte, You are blessed to be more like Mary! But you're right, we need Marthas as well as Marys, and we need to have some of each personality within us to be effective in Christian service while constantly being renewed by His love.
May God bless you and your ministry!

Never Forsaken said...

Hi Laurie,
This is a very good and often asked question!
I used to be more of a Martha, but have learned to be more like Mary. I do try to be quick to lend a helping hand to the die-hard Martha's out there however in hopes they may have an opportunity to sit at Jesus' feet also!

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Never Forsaken, That's a good point, that the Marys should encourage the Marthas to sit at Jesus feet, and help them to do so when they can. It's a balance we should all seek between being productive for Him and receptive to Him.
May you have a blessed weekend!

Ashley Pichea [] said...

I definitely err on the side of Martha!

It's so good to "meet" you! I'm stopping by via the Blog Bash 2011... have a BLESSED weekend!!

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Ashley,
Wonderful to "meet" you too! Thanks so much for visiting and commenting, and please come again soon!
May God bless you and your ministry.