As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. "Master, don't you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand."
The Master said, "Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it's the main course, and won't be taken from her."
There are some stories that make me really mad. This is one of them. As an oldest child that feels very responsible for things, I really want Jesus to chastise Mary for being a lazy bum and not helping Martha out. This whole scene feels a bit unjust if you ask me.
Now, I know that Jesus is not unjust. So, what do I do? Do I simply ignore this passage and the feelings that I experience? Do I just act like it’s not even there? That’s the temptation, honestly. Just like I’ve learned to do with my Facebook feed, keep on scrolling. But, this isn’t my Facebook feed. So, to keep on scrolling is simply not an option. I have to deal with it.
When I come to a passage like this, one where I struggle to be OK with what is written it demands me to stop and sit with it until I can figure out a couple things. First, why do I have a strong negative reaction? Is it really a problem with what I’m reading or is it something else? Is it possible that I’m missing something important that is causing me to respond this way?
As I sit with the passage this morning (and I will be mulling it over the rest of the day) I think what I need to grab onto are a couple key words. For the first key word I find that that the NIV is helpful here, “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. (emphasis mine)” The word: distracted. Martha was doing a great job and in the Message we catch this sense, “A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home.” Her practice of hospitality was on point. But, then she got distracted. Most of our weaknesses are strengths taken to an extreme. Martha’s gift of serving was commendable but she allowed it to distract her from being in the presence of the Master.
In one of our missional communities the hosts have a predictable pattern to not clean the kitchen up while their guests are still there. The table gets cleared but the kitchen can wait. Their home is warm, welcoming, and hospitable. But, they don’t allow their value of a clean home overwhelm their higher value of hospitality. You see, they have made a decision to not allow a task to distract from being in the presence of their guests.
The second key word is from this line, “Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing.” The word: fussing. In the NIV that is translated as worry. I like the word “fussing” because it highlights for me the active part of worry. Worry doesn’t always look like someone sitting on the edge of their bed wringing their hands or clutching their pearls. Fussing, the inability to rest is also a sign of worry. The constant need to tweak something or adjust something distracts us from the better thing.
I was listening to a podcast the other day about personal growth. One of the things they were talking about was “sloth.” It was interesting how they defined it. They talked about how sloth is often engaging in an activity to numb ourselves from dealing with ourselves. So sloth could be the act of reading, the act of exercise, etc… Anything that we do to avoid having to deal with what is going on inside of us is sloth. You could say it’s fussing. Perhaps Martha kept fussing because she didn’t want to have to deal with what she would learn from being in the presence of Jesus.
As I process these words, distracted and fussing I come face to face with the ways that I avoid simply being in the presence of Christ. Since I’m a professional Christian I know how to make it look good and nobody would question how I spend my time. Yet, I think I’m more Martha than Mary. I’m more distracted than focused and given to fussing more than resting.
How about you?