Luke 10:38-42 New International Version (NIV)
At the Home of Martha and Mary
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
I readily admit: I’m a Martha. I’d like to say a “recovering” Martha. In the past, I don’t think there was anything that angered me more than having to do more than my share of the work. The injustice of it all! When group projects turned into singular efforts. When co-workers choose not to “see” work. When you are in a setting where the 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Is there anything that makes you more resentful?
I must pause here to say that work – physical or otherwise can be the greatest of character builders. I remember back in my teen years I went on a mission trip to Thailand. Our team was tasked with building a water reservoir – concrete floor with brick walls. The work was physically hard – we had to mix cement by hand and the bricks to be laid were ¼ size of a standard north American brick. Tedious work, but rewarding as the team worked together – equally. The project was managed by an older gentleman who seemed to know just which project an individual should do. From this experience, character and work ethic was built in every member of our team.
Flash forward to my mid-20’s and I was working with developmentally delayed individuals in a group home. Again – the intent was that the workers would complete tasks as a team. However, due to a number of factors, bad management, little to no repercussions for not doing your job – the bulk of the work seemed to fall on one individual. Or in the worst case, be passed on to the next shift.
In this setting, I was definitely the “Martha” – resentful and angry at my co-workers for not doing their assigned tasks. I became so frustrated with this I chose to leave that position and move on to work I could do by myself. No more teamwork for me!
Looking back, I can see now how “Martha” I was. I did tasks I wasn’t required to do and judged others for not following my lead. I saw mess and dirt and duty, but what I didn’t see is the “better” Jesus is talking about in this passage. I had the privilege of working with beautiful people who could love more than most fully functioning individuals, but I couldn’t stop and just be with them. I missed out on so much.
Now in my mid 40’s I can see why Christ’s words to Martha so powerful. Christ was asking her to stop doing and BE.
How often do we rush ahead and do, do, do, thinking that doing is honouring God? We rush off and make snap decisions based upon human values, rather than Christ’s values.
I have been so guilty of this -not so much second guessing God, as running ahead and assuming the doing is obedience.
God desires me to lay down the doing and dwell in the being. Only in being can we experience true intimacy with Him. While the world would tell us to rush ahead, make decisions, leap into the future God is asking us to stop. Listen. Be in Him. I think this is one interpretation of the Kingdom of God being here on earth. When we rest and wait on Him He whispers through the quiet. He builds a life in us. He woos us like a lover. He becomes our most intimate relationship.
We are mistaken if we think doing will lead us where we want to go. Everything we do leads us to the grave. There is no way out for any of us.
I could be glib here and tell you how it’s about the journey, not the destination. I could write about transcendental experiences of meeting God on mountain tops. But often I think He is already here waiting to meet us in the mundane. We just need to get out of the kitchen and join Mary at the feet of Jesus and listen.