We, especially as women, all know this story/passage in Luke 10 like it was the back of our hand. I remember one Thanksgiving I hosted at our house in Houston where I could feel the hair on the back of my neck standing up as my temperature rose because all my family members, whom I was preparing this great feast for, were just sitting around enjoying themselves. ESPECIALLY my husband who really should, as the host to my hostess, have been helping me!
I also saw, the only one I ever did I think, an episode of "Shalom in the home" where the Rabbi went into to a house where it was painfully obvious the marriage was crumbling. The wife, in her pain and bitterness, literally cleaned the house all day, even after everyone got home. That was her husband's biggest complaint. It was her safe place, her source of comfort, have a germ-free, spectacular house.
I can tell you, I don't, nor do I identify with that, but I can see, for the first time, deeper into this story. And I think, my sweet Jesus included it in His Word because He just loves us women so much and understands our pain as women & mothers. Let me unpack what I think here.
The full story is in Luke 10:38-42 and comes hot on the heels of Jesus sending out the seventy and His parable of The Good Samaritan. If you read it in context with the whole chapter, you can see the theme. Be present where you are and help people by spreading the gospel through words or actions. I'm doing a lot of paraphrasing here but I think that's why Martha's defining story is here.
I was reading out of Our Daughters & Mothers Bible Stories to the girls last night as I usually do. I chose the story of Martha and Mary because Natalie had done it lately with her Sunday School. She likes it when she knows stuff! (Imagine that) And the way they told it and the way it unfolded for me was a new awakening. As I said, I know how Martha felt--or do I?
See - what I think was going on, because our Sweet Lord is so good at showing us our true selves without condemnation, is that Jesus was trying to nip a life long problem in the bud. The way the writer of our Daughters/Mothers wrote it, she said that Martha had always been proud of how hard she worked to keep the house. She took care of her family, whether it started because she was the oldest or had too, I don't know. The Bible does not expand on Martha's life prior to this. We do know that her two siblings didn't help much, especially the one she counted on to help, Mary.
I would gather, seeing the sister-act in my house, that years of bitterness could have been there. We see that Martha explodes at Jesus because of Mary's lack of help. I don't think this was the first time she felt that way at all. In fact, I think keeping the house had become Martha's God. It was an obsession, it was a way to prove her worth or like that lady I saw on TV, escape a life that otherwise is without joy.
It could have been a way of working for her salvation. Seriously - if I take great care of Jesus while He is in my house - He is sure to love me and keep me with Him. You get so busy working for The Lord, you don't have time to spend with Him when He is right there in your house.
It could have been plain jealousy. Here were 2 unmarried women living with their brother and this wonderful man loves them. Platonic for sure but even if the eros love is not returned, our human minds can still take it in the wrong direction. Mary was getting all of his time (again, I don't' think this was an isolated thing) and Martha was slaving away. The NIV translation says in verse 38 that "A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home" which is interesting. The Lord saw fit to include how He felt about Martha's care.
Or it could have been, Martha just didn't get what Jesus & Mary always talked about. It's hard sometimes to understand people who are deep in The Word if you aren't in it yourself. She could have felt guilty or embarrassed that she didn't or couldn't keep up with their mental gymnastics. If that was the case, that could have certainly built up a hard heart as well.
The end result is, The Lord loved them both for their unique gifts and He wanted them (and us) to use them for HIS glory through His guidance, which only comes from a direct 1x1 relationship with Him. Martha was not doing that - she had replaced her "first love" as He talks about in Revelation with her own comfort or her pride or her bitterness. Whatever the case, it all led up to her not being present when The Lord was in her house. She could actually touch Him & hug Him (oh Lord, I can't wait for that day!) She was choosing a path not of The Lord. Not that He didn't appreciate her efforts for His comfort, but it had taken on a life of it's own. He was not her Lord at this point.
Thankfully, Jesus steps in. He took His opportunity to knock on the door to her heart. He showed her, just like so many, that there was a better way, to a complete heart and that is through focused, attentive time with Him. And He does it for all of us, if we ask. Martha didn't ask so much, but if you think about it - I know my outbursts are a lot of times a cry for help. It wasn't a pretty prayer with flowing language, but it was real, heart-felt emotion shown to our Lord and He kindly set her to a-rights.
There is one more point I want to make. All of Martha's works, if they had been done with a right heart, would have brought Him glory. It's not because they would have made an impact on thousands of people (although I bet her family and friends would have taken notice), but works done through faith and with love ALWAYS bring glory to Him. That's the bottom line. Even doing the dishes, if done with a right heart to honor Him and with Him in mind, make a difference.
Think about that the next time you are looking at a mountain of them in your sink!