by Chantel Waltz
My life regularly feels non-stop with always a lot to do. Can you relate? As a mom of 3, I feel like I am spread thin, trying to meet all my family’s needs. The laundry, the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, the homework, the after-school activities. Not to mention work or church ministry! Nursery! Worship Team! Prayer Teams! Evangelism! There never seems to be an end to the list of responsibilities. I’m not complaining, really. I love my family, my church and my life, but I do tend to get a little stressed out…...ok, a lot stressed out.
You could call me a Martha. You know the one. Martha, as in Mary’s sister. Jesus came to the home of these two sisters and began to teach. Frantic and disheveled Martha got busy preparing the food, while Mary, the good sister, sat sweetly down at Jesus’ feet to enjoy his company. Martha stood fuming in the doorway (because Mary wasn’t helping her make the dinner) and got reprimanded by Jesus for being angry with her sister.
This is, of course, my own translation of the Biblical account, but really, don’t we tend to interpret the story this way? “Wonderful Mary and Horrible Martha!” The thing is, regardless of our own interpretations, by working hard to prepare the food, Martha was doing exactly what she should have been doing! In those days, the women were always expected to work hard to serve their families, and especially notable guests.
Understanding this makes me feel a little better about my Martha tendencies. Serving others is a wonderful thing! It not only blesses others, but is also a vitally important part of our lives and spiritual walk. James 2:20b says “Faith without works is dead.” Jesus wasn’t rebuking Martha for serving, he was rebuking her for allowing her serving to make her anxious and angry!
Here at His Way Worship, we talk a lot about what worship is. More than musical worship during a church service, we worship the Lord through our whole lives. Romans 12:1 says “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.” Every day, like yours, my life is full of sacrifice, which mostly looks like service. There’s every day service: serving my husband, my children, my friends, and community. There’s also spiritual service: teaching, leading worship, praying for others, evangelism. When presented to the Lord, I know that my every act of service is worship unto Him, even washing dishes!
Jesus knew that Martha was actually worshipping Him as she worked hard to prepare His meal. So even His reprimand of her was rooted in love and pleasure. Not disappointment or anger. The last thing Jesus says in his reprimand is interesting to note, however. He adds that “One thing is needed, and Mary had chosen the better part.”
The Better Part… worshipping at His feet… taking time for intimate friendship with Jesus.
What is it about us Marthas? Sometimes the thought of sitting down to pray or read or worship (when our daily to-do-list could wrap around the house) fills us with anxiety. There are so many needs, all the time!! And sometimes, the goal of taking time to sit down and be with Jesus becomes just one more thing on the list that we don’t have time to do, which stresses us out even more. Furthermore, it’s not always easy to get to the place of intimacy with Jesus. Maybe we dread the possibility of getting “emotional” or just plain have a hard time sitting still.
By now you can probably guess that I’ve not been the most disciplined about spending intimate time with Jesus. I am getting better and have actually seen progress in this area of my life, but it’s honestly a daily challenge to choose to take time to be intimate with Jesus… to get filled up. And it is SO true, when I try to serve without first being filled, I DO feel like Martha. Anxious. Tired. Angry.
So, to all my fellow Martha’s-keep going! Keep running! Keep serving! Know, that as you serve, if you offer it to the Lord, you are engaging in worship to Him, and He loves it! But also know that His plan for us includes stopping to do the one thing that is needed. To sit at His feet. To lay our burdens down. To hear what he wants to say to our hearts. To get filled-up. It’s truly the Better Part.