The clock was ticking, demanding her urgent attention, and yet she sat still. Martha breathed deeply and closed out the clamor of her to do list. Rest. She now knew she wanted to start her days with rest. She was seeking deliverance from what she called “hurry sickness.” So, as obligations waited, she chose to drink in peace, calmly noticing a brilliantly jeweled hummingbird flitting by her chair.The sun felt warm on her skin as she watched a tiny lizard scale her garden wall.It would probably be hotter later in the day, but now the temperature was a perfect 75 degrees. The intoxicating scent of the native chocolate flowers hung thick in the early morning air. Quietly, Martha sipped her tea and meditated on a simple passage in the Psalms which had caught her eye, “Early will I seek you.” Unearthed in the clear exhortation, pure wisdom grew and took root in Martha’s heart, and in her morning solitude she heard God whisper to her of his steadfast love.
Like for Martha, learned hurriedness can be a fast moving train which we don’t want to climb aboard. Speeding through life without times of quiet reflection will only generate a bad case of spiritual motion sickness. Have you ever allowed pressing needs to rob you of joy and preempt your peace? Then you know what the fog of busyness will do to your reasoning powers. In the gospel of Luke chapter 10, there is an ancient story of another Martha who uncovered this important lesson.
She will forever be remembered as the woman who mistakenly believed serving Jesus was more important than listening to him. Scripture says Martha was distracted by much service, anxious and troubled by many things, but she missed the one thing necessary, hearing Jesus speak. In contrast to Martha’s behavior, her sister Mary grasped the importance of living in the moment.
Mary rightly discerned Jesus didn’t come to town to teach every day. How did Martha miss this connection? Did she honestly believe Jesus needed her to cook for him when in the chapter before, Luke 9, he had easily fed five thousand without her help? Did she believe it wasn’t a woman’s place to study theology or sit under such a great teacher? Did she not understand that Jesus’ message was for people just like her; people who had much responsibility, but who first needed their own cup filled before they were going to be able to meet the needs of those they loved? For whatever reason, Martha initially pursued service over rest; she eventually had to learn to value what Jesus values. And like the Martha of the Bible, we need to see the strength to touch others’ lives flows from those moments we spend with Jesus sitting at his feet.
We need to revisit this story with fresh eyes. Look at Luke 10:38-42:
"Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman
named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39) And she had a sister called Mary,
who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40) 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 to help me.” 41) But the Lord answered her,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42) but one thing
is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from
In verse 40, we learn that Martha was distracted with much serving. Service is not an evil endeavor; in fact, Jesus delights when we serve him. It is the much serving which can cause us to develop deaf ears. So, what are some of the dangers revealed in this story of exhausted service?
First, when we don’t value solitude, we must see busyness will tempt us to question God’s goodness. Look at Mary’s confrontation of Jesus in verse 40. “Lord, do you not care…?” Of course God cares. God is good all the time. He is always concerned about our real needs, but when exhaustion has overtaken us, this becomes our default mode of thinking. We are convinced God doesn’t care about us. Only pulling away from the hustle of life will allow us the ability to regain our proper perspective. If we neglect this sweetness, our spiritual deafness increases. It won’t be long before we will feel free to boss God around. Look again at Martha’s next comments in verse 40, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.”
Not only has the fog of service left Martha questioning Jesus’ purity and holiness, but it has also clouded her judgment about her place in their relationship. Because of the power of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can and do present our needs to God, but we do not control God. He is God and we are not. He can meet our needs in a multitude of ways when we pray to him. When we come to him, we must come in humility, acknowledging our right to present our request is based on Jesus’ righteousness alone. Bossing God will destroy our ability to hear him speak. The pride that can overcome us when we are emotionally and physically spent is magnified when we ignore our spiritual rest. If we want to value solitude, we must see busyness will tempt us to question God’s goodness.
Secondly, when we don’t value solitude, we must see busyness will tempt us to judge others. Mary was acting out of the purest motives when she sat listening at Jesus’ feet. And yet, Martha could not see what was happening. When we are weary, when we are tired, when we don’t find the time for our own spiritual refreshment, we will feel free to sit in judgment over other people’s motives and actions. So, the absence of genuine spiritual peace will wreak havoc with all of our relationships. We will constantly be misreading our loved ones intentions, especially their pure intentions.
Blinded by our own self-righteousness, it will be easy for us to condemn others. In Matthew 22:37-39 when the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was he said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We are powerless to love God first and foremost if we are constantly tempted to believe he is not acting rightly toward us. If we imagine, for one moment, that he has made a mistake in our lives, our affection for him will grow stone cold. This is the main risk of the hurried life.
Secondly, we will not be able to love our neighbor as ourselves if we honestly believe we are better than them. Only times alone with Jesus will free us from our faulty thinking. If we want to value solitude, we must see busyness will tempt us to judge others.
Lastly, when we don’t value solitude, we must see busyness will muffle God’s voice. Most people’s hearing will diminish with age. Initially, when this happens, our pride might lead us to smile and nod at people with disastrous results when they say things we don’t understand. Like the loss of hearing which comes from growing older, we cannot successfully navigate our spiritual lives on partial information from God.
Satan doesn’t have to completely silence God’s voice for us to become disabled. If he can just muffle it, so we are unsure of our assignments, he has accomplished his goal. In addition, God will often speak with great clarity about our future, but then God withholds the time or the place it will be brought to pass to teach us to trust him. It takes great patience to wait on his full revelation.
When we study the life of Martha in the scripture, it is evident that she probably had the spiritual gift of hospitality from her early steps of faith. Other passages in John go on to share how she was often found serving those who visited her home, but in Luke 10 something did change that day Jesus confronted her. In the later passages, Martha’s ministry is not motivated by emotional needs of self-worth or attention.
Now, she can be hospitable with a pure heart. Like Martha learned, sitting at Jesus’ feet will give us the patience and fortitude to wait for the revelation of God’s plans for our lives. We will not feel the need to rush ahead or in some fleshly way try to accomplish God’s will in our strength. Martha had to learn that all ministries must flow out of a deep love for God and a deep love for others. Without that stream of love, our labor is empty and void of God’s power. So, if we want to see the value of solitude, we must see busyness will muffle God’s voice.
This story of exhausted service has unearthed three risk factors found in a hectic life. Busyness will tempt us to question God’s goodness, tempt us to judge others, and muffle God’s voice. If we don’t believe God is good, we will find it very difficult to love him. Since loving God is the first and greatest commandment, questioning his goodness is perilous at best. We are not God and we cannot pretend to understand all his eternal plans. It is the epitome of pretention to think our thoughts are better than God’s thoughts.
If we are not careful, we may even progress to praying prayers which are demanding and bossy. God is good all the time, even when we don’t understand what he is doing. Time alone in his presence is where we first begin to unravel his mysterious ways and see our true humble station. Secondly, fatigue will tempt us to judge others. Sadly, if we are not careful, we will often condemn people who have the purest motives, because our powers of discernment have been compromised by exhaustion. Loving others as ourselves is only possible when we take the time to care for ourselves.
Nothing is more refreshing than time spent sitting at Jesus’ feet. Loving others does not include judging them. Lastly, hurriedness will definitely muffle God’s voice. Satan does not have to completely drown out God’s word to hamstring our progress. Anytime the message is muffled, we are in jeopardy, unsure of our next move. We can’t act with confidence if we are missing part of what God said.
We must do whatever is necessary to acquire good listening skills. Martha believed Jesus was the Messiah, but she didn’t know she needed to heed his voice. Until the day Jesus spoke to her and commended Mary for choosing the better part, she was only listening to half of her Messiah’s message. All three of these hazards, questioning God’s goodness, judging others, and hearing only half of what God is saying have a spiritual antidote, though: time spent alone with God enjoying his peace.
1) Think back to the modern Martha we read about in our first paragraph. What
actions or attitudes enabled her to hear God speak?
2) What might change in our lives if we could start our day with rest?
3) What might change in our lives if we valued hearing God speak?
Luke 10 ends with Jesus praising Mary’s heart. Look again at verse 42, “…but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken from her.” Have we chosen the one thing which is necessary? Have we chosen to hear Jesus speak? In Jesus’ promise to Mary, we find such tenderness and joy. Maybe we should make this promise our prayer: “Lord Jesus, like Mary, I want to choose the good portion, the one thing which is necessary. Don’t let it be taken from me.”