Serve-to assist or to help. I have always struggled with the Martha and Mary story in Luke 10:38-42. As the story goes, Jesus entered Bethany (the hometown of Lazarus who was also the brother of Martha and Mary), and immediately the characters in this short story are introduced, “Martha welcomed Him into her house, and she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching.” (Luke 10:38, 39). I am sure Martha had noble intentions. She wanted to host Jesus in her home. After all, as woman we are to be hospitable. “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (I Peter 4:9, 10). However, her noble intentions felt like shackles when she saw her sister sitting at Jesus’ feet apparently doing nothing. “But Martha was distracted with much serving…” (Luke 10:40). At that moment in Martha’s mind, listening to the teaching of Jesus was not a noble endeavor. After all, there were guests in their home and these guests would need food to eat and possibly a place to stay for the night. There was no Pizza Hut to order delivery and the beds did not get freshened and ready by themselves. So Martha began to feel bitter over her eagerness to serve Jesus and the disciples that were accompanying Him with food and lodging. Her priorities were misaligned.
Whenever I read this story, I so clearly identify with Martha. I am a task person. I also enjoy entertaining, but of course, when I have people for dinner, I want it to be just perfect for them. If Jesus and His disciples came to my house, I would want the experience to be perfect. The perfect meal with the perfect dessert. Then when they are ready to retire for the night, I would want a fresh bed with a nice soft pillow for them to lay their head.
Serving is not about the perfect meal with the most delicious dessert. There are not too many times I have visited someone’s home that I remember the meal. However, what I do remember is the attitude in the service. When someone comes to my home, I never want them to feel like an inconvenience but rather I want them to feel like a treasure. Whenever I serve whether at church, home, or in the community, my service needs to be from a heart of love not a heart filled with guilt. I have considered this carefully and realize that in essence, when I serve out of guilt, I am trying to earn my salvation or more favor with God or man. I am already saved and need to do nothing to earn any more favor with God. A heart that serves out of guilt or out of a desire to gain more favor with God or man is a sin. However, when my heart is right before the Lord and I am His vessel, then my life will be a channel for His love lived out through acts of service.
The key to being a Mary (sitting at the feet of Jesus) in our busy world (Martha) is to begin each day filling our hearts with love from God. Martha was anxious about the wrong things according to Jesus’ chastisement of her, but “one this is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42). “One thing is necessary” according to Jesus. What is it? Sitting at Jesus’ feet listening and learning. Mary did this first. Before we become encumbered with too much serving, we must sit at the feet of Jesus and listen and learn. Then when it is time to serve, there will be joy in our hearts. It is so much more fun to serve with others than to do it by ourselves. Instead of being the hero and serving on our own we must elicit some help and serve in the joy of the Lord. The blessing will be multiplied.