An important Guest had come home. The elder sister was busy in the kitchen preparing a special meal for the Guest. The younger sister seemed not to care about what was going on in the kitchen. She sat down to chat with the Guest, Jesus. In my culture the elder sister should sit down and talk to the visitor while the younger one prepares the meal. But in the account recorded in Luke 10:38-41, Mary, the younger sister, sits down while her older sister does the work. It would appear that Martha was justified when she complained to Jesus about her. Doesn't Mary realize that as the younger one she should do most of the work. Doesn't she have any respect for her elder sister. She should, at least, get up and help.
A quick glance at this story makes one sympathize with Martha. It appears like she was reproved unfairly. She needed a hand. She was doing a good thing. Martha was practicing hospitality. Isn't preparing food the thing to do when a visitor comes home? Why is it that Jesus commends Mary who doesn't even care to give the visitor food. But what was Martha's problem?
Martha needed to put her priorities right. The Guest was Jesus. He wanted her heart more than food. My daugher (my son), give me your heart. Martha needed to put first things first. Jesus wanted Martha to have a meaningful relationship with Him. This should have been number one on her priority list.
Martha gets up in the morning and thinks of the number of things she has to do at home before she leaves for the office. She has no time for personal devotions. Martha says a short prayer and jumps out of bed, she just has to get everything done. She is always in a hurry. Martha is too busy to find time to sit down with Jesus. She has a desire to have time for Jesus, but there is just too much to do. Maybe if we had 48 hour days, then she would have time to sit and listen and talk to Jesus. She gets upset when people don't help her, especially when she is behind time.
Jesus warns her, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things" (Luke 10:41). You need to take time to reconsider your priorities. Who has top priority in your life? Is it your duties or Jesus? Mary has her priorities right. She knows who is first in her life. "Martha, you need to sit down and make time for your Master."
Quick to draw conclusions
Martha had another problem. She was more concerned about what Mary was doing than her own duties. Martha rushed to the wrong conclusion that Mary was being irresponsible and lazy. "Master, bid her to come and help me prepare the meal. How can she sit and chat as if she doesn't know what needs to be done? What she is doing is wrong. Please tell her." Martha doesn't care to call her sister aside and discuss the problem in private. She is determined to embarrass her before the Guest. Martha wants to get things done even at the expense of relationships. When Martha gets home from work, the first thing she notices is what the children should have done. "You should have picked up this and cleaned that."
Martha perceives that what she is doing is more important than what Mary is doing. So Mary must come and help.
It is easy to misunderstand the actions of others and draw wrong conclusions. Joshua 22 records the story of two and half tribes of Israel (Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh) who were settled on the land across the Jordan River. They built an altar as a memorial of the worship of the true God. Because they were far from the rest of the tribes, they perceived that their children would forget to worship the God of heaven and follow the heathen tribes around them. So they erected this altar, not to offer sacrifices, but as a reminder of the worship of Jehovah.
The other ten tribes misunderstood their action, and they gathered together to make war against the two and half tribes. They thought they were disregarding the altar of worship that was in the tabernacle. They sent a delegation to reprove them. Why should they erect another altar? This was rebellion against God. They should be reproved and disciplined. When the delegation got there and heard the other side of the story, they realized that they had rushed to a wrong conclusion.
Martha was hurting inside. She was quick to draw conclusions. Jesus wanted Martha to realize her mistake. She was self-centered. The phrase "Why should I?" is always in Martha's mind. Why should I do so much work when my sister seems to be relaxing? Mary is having a good time, but I think she should be here with me. Martha wants to enjoy both the cake and the conversation. Why should I be given so many duties in the office when other workers seem to be doing so little? Why is it that I am always asked to host visitors that come to the conference, yet there are so many of us around here. If we did it in turns, wouldn't it be so much easier? Others seem to have time for themselves, but I am kept so busy. After all, the president's wife should do it; it's her responsibility. Martha seems to worry so much about why she has such a heavy load while others seem to have none at all. Because of her thoughts Martha does not enjoy the aroma of the cake she is baking. She fails to experience the joy of service. Martha sets her mind on the fortunes of others and weighs them against her misfortunes. Other people's misfortunes don't bother her. She doesn't see Mary's need of the Savior. She sees in her a helping hand. Mary needs strength from Jesus to overcome sin (adultery). Martha's major concern is that the food must be ready; Mary should be helping with this and that. She wants to correct her irresponsible behavior.
Martha needs to concern herself more on how best to accomplish her work. What methods should she implement in order to produce best results?
Martha failed to produce her best results because she worried about what the other person should be doing to make her work lighter. Instead she should ask herself whether she is doing what the Lord wants her to do. Is she doing it the way He wants her to? What is her attitude towards her work? How can she do better next time?
The Lord expects Martha not to find faults in others, but to assess herself and to set her priorities right, to make communion with God top priority, to depend on Him to help her accomplish His will for her life.
The changed Martha
Later Jesus again comes to the home of Martha and Mary. Their brother Lazarus had died. When Martha heard that Jesus was on His way to their home she ran out to meet him. She left all the people who had come to comfort her and went out to Jesus. Christ was now number one on Martha's priority list. The beautiful words, "I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25) were said to Martha. The Bible says Martha went back home and called Mary, her sister, secretly and told her the Master had come. She does not shout to her and embarrass her and say "Why do you sit here doing nothing? You should have come with me to meet the Master." She is a different Martha.
In Simon's house, Martha was serving. Again Mary goes to Jesus' feet and anoints Him with a sweet perfume. We are not told that Martha complained. She had learned the joy of serving. Martha had learned to put Christ first, and as a result, she enjoyed serving others. There is a time for everything:a time to cultivate a relationship with Christ and a time to serve.
"Lord, change this Martha in me. Let her learn to choose the good part which shall not be taken away from her, then she will experience the joy of serving.