In Luke 10:38-42 we read the story of Mary and Martha, where Jesus was invited into their home. We don’t exactly know what Martha was occupied with, but I imagine she was preparing a meal for her guests while Mary, her sister, was sitting at the feet of Jesus to listen to what He was sharing. Martha was obviously running around like a busy bee serving. After a while she approaches Jesus, not Mary, asking Jesus to tell her sister to help in the kitchen.
One would have thought Jesus would have had compassion on Martha and sent her sister Mary to help her. But as a matter of fact Jesus almost seems to rebuke Martha, addressing her twice by her name, and suggesting that Mary has chosen the better place and making sure that it wouldn’t be taken from her. What a surprise, or maybe even offence, that must have been for Martha. It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t suggest to Martha to stop cooking or serving. I imagine that He was also looking forward to a good meal. But heed His words: ‘You are anxious and troubled about many things!’ In the verse prior to this one we read that Martha was ‘distracted with much serving’.
Have you ever been invited for a meal where the hostess of the house hardly has time to greet you because she’s running around so busy and under pressure? Perhaps she’s so afraid of making a mistake or being late with the meal that she’s made you feel nervous or tense, thinking that you’re so causing her so much trouble and stress. You’re not really able to relax, settle in and feel at home, knowing you’re welcome in that house. How different it is when your hosts have time for you from the moment you arrive, being able to share hearts, or they show you around while the meal is cooking by itself in the oven, and the table already set and prepared.
In this story we can learn two things. Firstly I think Jesus doesn’t suggest that we stop working altogether, to only ever sit at His feet and listen to Him. But I believe that He makes the priorities clear. It’s so important that we have time of intimate fellowship with Him before we go into action. Jesus Himself very often went on a hill or mountain, early in the morning, to spend quality time with His Father, before going about His daily ‘business’. I imagine that during those times He received the daily portion, or the day’s work, from His Father. How much more do we need to meet Him in that secluded place, to have intimate fellowship, and to know the works He’s prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
Secondly our service is a matter of attitude. Martha was anxious, troubled, tense, worried and even reproachful and accusing. Jesus wants us to be joyful and grateful in whatever we do, as if doing it ‘unto Him’. If you’re unfulfilled, unhappy or even downcast and oppressed in your work it might be good to go to Jesus and ask Him why. It could be outward pressures and expectations, or your own striving to perform. It could be that you’re doing the wrong thing, in the wrong place. It could be that things are out of balance and you have to get your priorities right. Or you might have to ask Jesus to change your heart. Whatever it is Jesus will show you, and help you to get it right with Him, when you take the time to sit at His feet and inquire of Him.
Jesus wants us to know Him first and then to know His will. He wants us to bear fruit in the first place, rather than achieving results. Results are the outcome of activity. Fruit is the outcome of relationship. Whenever we spend time with Him and look upon Him we’re changed into His likeness. After all He prepares us to be His bride, not to be His servant. He has a specific calling for each one of us, but it comes out of a heart relationship with Him. And, remember, if we have missed the point and gone off track, Jesus never stops inviting us to come back to Him. ‘Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28-30).
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