On December 31, 1999, as people were waiting out the last few minutes before the dawn of the 21st century, I was looking for a place to go to the bathroom on the Grassy Knoll. To my defense, I was a kid and the city of Dallas seemed more concerned with Y2K than ensuring Porta-Potties would be available at Dealey Plaza, but at least I didn’t miss the countdown. Not like the guy we passed on the way back to our car.
Weaving through hundreds of people, he stopped us and said, “Wait…wait, what time is it? Did I miss it?!” And remember, in 1999, we were also afraid that every computer in the world would either crash or turn into Terminators and become our overlords. So, what distracted this guy enough to miss the millennium? (My guess is putting on the finishing touches to his Skynet Resistance bunker, but it’s hard to say.)
Either way, I’m sure the man felt silly, but not as silly as Martha must have. Nobody beats her. In the Gospel account, Luke tells the story about Jesus teaching at Mary and Martha’s house and everyone was learning life-changing truths about the Kingdom of God. Except for Martha that is. She was too distracted to listen to a Man who could raise people from the dead (including her brother) and once successfully told a storm to shut up.
“And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Luke 10:39-40
These dishes aren’t going to clean themselves, Jesus. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure whatever it is You’re saying is some super great, King-of-Kings sort of stuff…but these dishes.
Like the man who arrived late to the party, we want to ask Martha, “How could you be so distracted that you missed something that amazing?” It’s not that serving is wrong. Jesus even said He came not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28). Yet His reaction to Martha shows that we can serve and still miss the point.
The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41
How, then, can we keep from going into a Martha mindset, missing the good portion Christ offers us? Here are some warning lights to watch for:
Blaming others for your lack of joy.
I appreciate Martha because she got things done, but it also was a blind spot that cost her the ability to set work aside and listen. Jesus was offering words that brought fullness of joy, but she was too distracted to hear them. So, her anger was spent on the closest target. When we distract ourselves to death, it’s tempting to point fingers at someone else.
Being anxious and troubled about many things.
We are not told what the “many things” are that Martha is anxious about, but it’s safe to assume from context that it has at least something to do with hospitality and service. Perhaps Jesus was also alluding to hidden areas of her heart that were trapped by fear (He often did these sorts of things), but we can’t say for sure. Either way, when our service and good work becomes a source of anxiety and distraction, something’s wrong. We’ve become like Martha.
Luke doesn’t tell us what her response was to this conversation, but it’s hard to imagine Martha rolling her eyes and going back to the dishes. It’s more likely that she sat down next to her sister and began to listen.
And, unless you want to miss some amazing moments in life, that’s what you should do as well.