10 Serving Duty or Devotion
38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’[a] feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”41 And Jesus[b] answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Martha was attempting to serve Jesus and her intentions were good, she truly desired to make Jesus welcome in her home, but we need to realize that good intentions do not always produce good results, or good choices. Mary is content to sit at Jesus’ feet, soaking up the Word, and not “do” anything, but her big sister Martha was looking around at all the guest and sees the need to prepare a meal. Martha was obviously a great hostess; she got up and began to prepare food for Jesus and all those there with Him. Martha looked and said to herself “What privilege to prepare a meal for the Master!” Mary on the other hand would have said, “What a privilege to sit at the feet of the Master.” Is one right and the other wrong? No. Duty and Devotion are both necessary but there must be a balance.
Every action, every relationship, every institution has a basic focus, which is its reason for existence, when there is a loss of that focus things start to unravel quickly. Martha’s loss of focus affected her in several ways.
- Loss of Focus Caused Martha to Resort to Self-Pity (v. 40)
The first part of verse forty tells us, “But Martha was distracted with much serving,…” “distracted” means to be pulled away or dragged away. The implication is that Martha wanted to hear Jesus herself, she wanted to be seated at his feet too, but she was pulled away by her sense of her “duties.” Fretting about the meal robbed her of the joy of serving the Lord. The problem did not lie in the work that Martha was doing, rather it was the attitude that she was doing it with that was the problem. Martha’s struggle is our struggle, the balance between the going and doing and the sitting and listening. The difference between Martha and Mary is not that one served and the other did not, but one served out of duty and the other out of devotion. In our daily lives we can become so busy with the everyday things of life that we neglect the most important
- Loss of Focus Causes Martha to Become Angry at Others
Our world is filled with many distractions and when you add more pressure, we become tempted to focus on the urgent rather than the important. Many people “burn out” in service but Martha was “burned up” in hers. Anger causes us to develop a critical spirit and we begin to judge and condemn others for what they do or don’t do.
- Loss of Focus Causes Martha to Find Fault with Others
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
Martha doesn’t even call her sister by name here; all she is focused on is what she is doing right and what Mary is doing wrong. So she tries to involve Jesus to fix the problem. But if serving Jesus makes us difficult to live with then we need to take a look at our serving because something is terribly wrong.
- Loss Of Focus Causes Martha To Question God
“Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
Part of the Martha’s problem was that she focused too much about what others were doing, and this caused her to question God. The problem wasn’t that Martha have an issue with Mary serving the problem was that Martha wanted to force Mary to serve Christ her way.
Many of us are serving but the question we need to ask is why are we doing what we are doing?
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Jesus responds with understanding, he did not rebuke her for making preparations for Him and the other guest. Notice that Jesus is not rejecting Martha’s attempt to serve Him. Martha’s problem was not that she was preparing food for her guest to eat, this was necessary, the problem becomes when she gives too much importance to it. Today we still have to be careful that we do not let the necessary things that must be done get out of balance and distort our lives. Martha came to Jesus because she wanted Him to lighten her load that day, and He did what she wanted but not in the way that she had expected. He lightened her load not by having Mary help her but by giving her a new perspective on her work. When we forget why we are doing what we are doing we can get things turned around, and we may end up feeling overworked and unappreciated. Sitting without serving is powerless, serving without sitting is directionless but serving after sitting produces power and balance. We need to remember that we must not forget God while trying to serve Him.