I don’t know about you, but I struggle with “Martha Syndrome.” One way that I show my love for my husband and my family is through serving. That in itself is not a bad thing; in fact, I think they rather enjoy it when I have a heart of servitude. However, there are those times when I get a bit tired. Maybe a little cranky. Okay, maybe a lot cranky. During those times when I’ve stretched myself too thin or possibly haven’t gotten enough sleep the night before, I have been known to raise my voice. Slam a cupboard door. Sigh loudly. Grunt, grumble, growl. What’s inside of my head might just come out, and it’s not always pretty. “Why am I the only person around here who ever does anything??!” (Sound familiar?) This happened to me this past weekend. My husband and daughter were less than thrilled. I could go into an entirely different rant on how people ask, “What’s wrong?” yet don’t really always like the answer, but I digress.
In the midst of my slamming and grunting, I heard God’s still, small voice within my heart. You see, it wasn’t just the contents of my brain that were ugly during my own personal pity party. What was inside of my heart was ugly too. My heart is where Jesus lives, and well, He really doesn’t like it when I trash His home. Seeds of bitterness and anger are watered by the father of lies, who wants nothing more than to evict my Lord and Savior from His residence within my heart and soul. Jesus warned us in John 8:44b that “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (NASB).” Before I became completely enveloped in Satan’s trash talk, God stepped in and spoke to my heart with two simple words: “Okay, Martha.”
I knew who He was referring to, and I knew why He was saying it. There are two passages in the Bible that I believe are different perspectives of the same story. At the beginning of John 12, we read about Jesus’ visit with Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. Picture this: Jesus arrives for dinner, He and Lazarus are chilling at the table, and Martha is rushing around (like we women tend to do when entertaining) finishing up the last of the cooking, maybe cleaning a few dishes, trying to make sure everything is just right. She was doing what she probably did best – serving. Now, serving in itself is a wonderful gift from God and should be used to His glory! But as we’ll see, this didn’t seem to be the case on this occasion with our girl, Martha. She’s buzzing around the kitchen, and where is her sister Mary? Verse 3 says, “Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (NASB).” Now jump back to Luke 10:38-42. This is where we get a peek into the hearts of these two sisters. Martha was distracted with the preparations, while Mary was seated at the feet of Jesus, “listening to His word (v. 39, NASB).” Mary was ticked! She even went to Jesus and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone (v. 40, NASB)?”
Wow. Let me just pause here for a moment. Is that how I sounded? Was I … really … whining to God? Lord, do you not care that I’m doing the cooking and the dishes and the laundry all by myself? Don’t You care that I have school work to finish while my family is, well, just doing whatever they want to do, and I’m so busy, and they’re not helping, and don’t You even CARE, God? Yep. That’s exactly how I sounded. Just making sure. Let’s move on.
Jesus spoke to Martha in verses 41 and 42, and I imagine Him smiling, possibly shaking His head a little, and taking her hands into His. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her (NASB).” It wasn’t Martha’s acts of service that were wrong; it was her attitude. It was her heart. Jesus pointed out that she was “worried and bothered about so many things.” Her heart and mind were caught up with not only the tasks at hand, but with the worry of why her sister wasn’t helping. Mary was at the feet of Jesus! He was a Guest in their home, and rather than worrying about food for her belly, she was feasting on food for her soul! Even if Martha wanted to finish preparing the dinner as an act of service to Christ and her family, she should not have begrudged Mary’s need to be at the feet of her Lord.
Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus, hanging on every word. Mary, who poured out her precious perfume upon His feet as a sacrifice from the heart, then wiped His feet with her hair. That sweet smell filled the home and that sweet sacrifice filled Jesus’ heart. That’s what He desires of us … what He desires of me.
A heart at rest – that’s what Mary had. Martha’s heart was filled with worry. Jesus saw this and called her out on it. He called me out on it, too. Jesus wanted Martha, like Mary, to find rest at His feet. To bring those worries and cares to Him. To worship from her heart, and not just with her hands. I want to be at the feet of Jesus. There will always be times when I am needed to serve; but I will only find peace when my heart is filled with so much of Christ that there is no room for Satan’s lies. Thank you, Jesus, for loving me enough to clean Your house – my heart – when the Martha in me comes out. Keep bringing me back to Your feet, where I find rest. Amen.