You’ve heard their story…”Mary…sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving.” (Luke 10:39-40). These were very godly women. They loved Jesus and Jesus loved them. They were devoted to Him by serving him and his disciples. But above all, they both looked to Him for hope (John 11). In this account you can guess some of these women’s differences in personalities. Martha is worried about what needs to get done. Honestly, I can’t blame her; after all, they are hosting Jesus and his disciples…no pressure! I can see Martha having a more task oriented personality and thus clashing with that of her more laid back sister. Mary, on the other hand, seems more than just a laid back kind of person. She seems wiser. She seems to have gotten a better grasp of who Jesus was and his temporary ministry on earth.
I can’t help but think of these characters every holiday season. Next week is Christmas and your lists of things to do probably by now have birthed baby lists, too. Tension might be brewing in your hearts and quite frankly you read the account of these two sisters and you go, “what’s wrong with Martha? I wouldn’t be happy either if my sister wasn’t helping me…” Personally, I like Martha. I get her passion for serving. I get her self-sacrificing ministry to Jesus and company. And I especially get it when she watches her sister seemingly slack off and her doing all the work. Don’t you?! She goes to Jesus and basically tattles, complains, and seeks to get her sister in trouble. She goes to him and says, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” I can almost see Jesus’ head shaking as he gently rebukes her, “Martha, Martha,”…“you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:40-42; Emphasis mine). That better thing was to sit and listen to Jesus.
I don’t know about you but I want to strive for both: Martha’s heart of service and Mary’s wisdom and humble devotion to Christ. During the holidays it is such a temptation to get caught up in the doing things for Jesus that we can neglect sitting down and truly hearing Him. Our shopping for gifts, our charity, our ministry to others, and our hospitality must be an overflow of what goes on in private worship. We cannot substitute service for worship. But I’ve discovered that it takes discernment and humility to strike a balance. You cannot multitask devotions so they’re the first thing that goes when there is so much to do. When I focus on all the serving and details for a perfect Christmas, I become discontent, distracted, and self-righteous. And what is the point in that? Well, not Jesus, not worship, and not serving Him in humility. I know that my good deeds only please God when done in faith, but I forget so easily. To avoid forgetfulness I must sit still. I must quiet down my soul. I must breath-in His Word. I must.
So yeah, let’s gear up to serve our family and friends as we make yummy things to eat and wrap their gifts, but let us also purpose ourselves to do what is better, which is to sit at the ‘shadows of the cross’ and listen.