It’s about to begin. My Pinterest feed is already filling with things Christmas and I’m getting e-mails about Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
We’re about to embark on the season of shopping and list making and cooking and decorating. Office parties, progressive dinners, gifts for neighbors and friends. Family pictures to coordinate and take, cards to order and write, cookies to decorate and packages to mail. Recitals, cantatas, open houses and musicals.
God must be proactively working on me because last week He brought the story of Mary and Martha to mind in my quiet time. I’ve often pondered this story, wrestling the tension between resting with God and working the must-do list.
Sometimes I think Martha gets a bad rap. I mean, someone has to cook the meal, right? I’d love to spend my hours in Bible study but my kids need clean clothes and food in the pantry and dinner on the table.
Here’s the story of Mary and Martha with Jesus and his apostles from Luke 10:
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.
I think we often assume that Martha is the type-A goal-oriented, efficient list checker and that Mary is the laid back, go-with-the-flow dreamer. But nothing in the account tells us about their personalities. Only their actions. (Except that Martha can be bossy!)
It could be that Mary, a list-checker, decided the most important thing on her list was to sit at Jesus’ feet and that Martha, a people pleaser, was caught up in dinner prep feeling sorry for herself. I think we can cross off the list that Jesus favors a certain personality. We’re just not told that. (Probably for good reason)
Plus, regardless of personality, we’ve all been Martha at some point, stressed by the day’s demands.
Luke says that Martha was distracted by dinner prep. The word “distracted” actually means “drawn away.” So while Mary was drawn to Jesus, Martha was drawn away.
Didn’t Jesus care? Didn’t He see how busy she was all by herself?
Martha echoes what our flesh often accuses ~ “If you really cared, Jesus, you would fix my circumstances.” So often we want God to change our circumstances. He wants to change us.
Uncondemning, Jesus answered her:
Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.
“Martha, Martha.” Do you think even as He said her name, she relaxed a bit? Jesus knew. He knew her heart and he understood the pull of pressing need. The One who was daily confronted with suffering (Mark 6:56) and crushing crowds wanting to touch him (Mark 3:10) and had no time to even eat because of ministry (Mark 6:31), understood pressing need.
But of all the things pressing Martha that afternoon, only one was a NEED. Man, I can get my supposed need-to’s upside down.
I have two choices every day: to first meet with Jesus in personal Bible study and then take care of the day’s to-do list or get right to the list and meet with Jesus after everything is in order. In the leftover time, if there is any left over. The list will be there either way. I can either work filled-up with all that Jesus poured into me or work through the day on empty waiting to be filled.
There are 6 weeks until Christmas. 43 days. Just writing that makes my pulse quicken. And after 6 weeks of preparation, the presents will be quickly opened and the holiday meal eaten. The table will be cleared and bags of wrapping will fill the recycling bins. But if for the next 43 days I choose the one thing needed — to meet with God in His Word first thing — I get to keep it long after the Christmas decorations are down.
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