Without a doubt, this is a Martha world. And as much as I hate to say it, I’m a Martha girl living in a Martha world. But as Christians, we’re to be Marys whether the world falls in line with Martha or Jezebel or Suzie Q. Jones.
In Luke 10:38-42, we have the account of Jesus in the home of Martha and Mary. These two women interact with Jesus in the scriptures more than any others. We first meet Mary in Luke 7:36-50 where she, an “immoral woman,” washes the Lord’s feet with her own tears and her own hair in the home of a Pharisee. She seeks Him out, weeps over her sins, wipes His feet with the very hair of her head, kisses His feet and anoints them with perfume. Even John mentions her beautiful act in John 11:2. Martha, on the other hand, seems to be a very practical lady. She gets a lot of flack over her complaining in Luke 10:40 (and since much of the flack comes from Jesus’ mouth, it’s deserved), but I don’t think she was her sister’s polar and unspiritual opposite. In John 11:20, it is Martha who goes out to meet Jesus while He is still coming. It is Martha who says in John 11:24, “I know that he [Lazarus] will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Martha is the one who calls Mary to Jesus (John 11:28). Let’s give credit where credit is due: Martha was a spiritually concerned person. But she, as Jesus said, had many worries (Luke 10:41).
Luke says that Martha was “distracted with all her preparations” (Luke 10:40, NASU). “Distracted” here is a word that means “dragged away,” and “all her preparations” literally translates to “much service.” She was being dragged away by much service. Finally, she is so frustrated that she interrupts the Lord in His teaching to ask Him to make her sister help. This reminds me of the man in Luke 12:13 who asks Jesus to tell his brother to share their inheritance. Can you imagine? There, in a crowd of thousands (Luke 12:1), this man has the opportunity to speak to Jesus—Creator, Author, Finisher of the faith—and all he wants is arbitration? And here is Martha—poor, stressed out Martha—who just wants some help in the kitchen. She’s too busy, too dragged away to notice Who she has in her home. She is like the thorny soil of Luke 8:7, 14. The worries of this life choke out the seed. But before we get too hard on Martha, let’s look in the mirror.
What about us? Do you take time daily to study your Bible or does it get pressed out by the urgent tasks of the day? Do you stand before God in wholehearted, undistracted prayer or does He only get snippets of dashed off words before you gobble up your lunch? Is your worship time filled with thoughts of Him or of thoughts of dinner? Are you being dragged away? I’ll admit… sometimes I am being dragged away. The dailyness of life gets in the way and the next thing I know I haven’t cracked my Bible in days… or I find it on Wednesday in the car where I left it on Sunday. Petitions and supplications are one sentence, half-hearted “Please be with so-n-so” and “thank You for…” rather than devoted, Holy Spirit groaning prayers (Romans 8:26). That’s the me I’m not so proud of, and that’s the me I’m trying to change. Here’s some things I’ve learned that help.
Do what is most important first. Jesus told Martha that only one thing is necessary (Luke 10:42). So when you get up, make the first task of the day to study your Bible and pray. If you get nothing else done all day, at least you got what was most important done. I can tell you from experience (more experience than I’m willing to fess up to) that dishes going undone doesn’t kill anyone, wearing dirty clothes isn’t the end of the world and laundry remaining unfolded doesn’t cause a nuclear holocaust.
Just do it. Nike said it, and in this case, it’s advice we do well to heed. Waiting for the perfect moment when the kids are all quiet and there’s nothing pressing to be done will leave you at the end of the day with your Bible still untouched. The perfect time doesn’t exist (c.f. Ecclesiastes 11:4). So just do it. Grab your Bible, sit down and crack the cover. Maybe you’ll be interrupted by crying children and soup boiling over, but just do it. Besides, it’s good for your children to see you studying and it’s good for them to hear you say to them, “Be quiet please, it’s Mommy’s time with God now.” If they’re old enough, have them get out their Bibles and read as well. Little ones can sit with a picture Bible.
Set a timer. This is a great tool when you have 500 tasks on your to-do list, children pawing at you and you just don’t think you can do it. FlyLady says you can do anything for 15 minutes. Set your timer for 15 minutes and give yourself permission to do nothing else for those 15 minutes but focus on God. There are very few things that cannot wait that long, though my two-year olds disagree. They want juice and they want it now, but it’s easy to say “Not right now. It’s Mommy’s time with God. When the timer goes off, I will get you some juice.” And you can say the same thing to yourself. “The dishes can wait. When the timer goes off, I will get to them.”
Memorize Scripture. I have bucked against this for years. I’ve made every excuse in the book as to why I shouldn’t have to do this, but it really does work. With the word in your heart (Psalm 119:11), you can meditate on it anywhere, anytime. Pick a verse and write it on a note card. Tuck it in your pocket, stick it to your bathroom mirror or slide it into your purse. My passage for the week? Luke 10:41-42.
A few more things to remember… Something is better than nothing. Those short quips of prayer do count, and no, failure to read your Bible daily isn’t a damnable offense… BUT… don’t make excuses and don’t accept less than your best effort. Remember that these things are the only things that are necessary and they can’t be taken away—Jesus said so (Luke 10:42).