In Luke 10:38-42 we find Jesus at the home of two beautiful sisters – Mary and Martha – who are very close friends with Jesus. While Mary sits at the feet of Jesus soaking in his wisdom and Presence, Martha is very busy – very distracted – by all that needs to be done in the kitchen preparing refreshments with Middle Eastern hospitality. This short story is so simple, yet so powerful for all of us who live in a culture and a world where there is no end of things to distract us. Each of us has only 24 hours in a day. There’s always more chores to do than hours available to do them. How we spend our 24 hrs/day reveals what’s important to us. We can get really busy doing what ends up not being very important at all. We used to call it “the tyranny of the urgent” – living a reactive life to whatever demands our attention at the moment. When you live reactively and not proactively, you end up frazzled… impulsive… easily distracted… impatient… unfocused… easily sidetracked… preoccupied… tense… stressed… easily upset. Do any of those words describe you?
Now, in Martha’s defense, she was a generous, hospitable, caring woman. After all, she’s the one who opened her home and invited Jesus in. That’s a beautiful thing! She really wants to be a good hostess. The difficulty for Martha is that she’s stressed herself out because she wants to be the perfect hostess – the hostess with the most-est. The last thing she wants is to fail or be seen as a failure in front of Jesus. She doesn’t want to feel ashamed that she didn’t work hard enough or long enough or provide enough food for everyone. She wants everyone to be happy. She doesn’t want anyone to be unhappy about anything. She wants to please everyone. We could say that her identity was wrapped up in her performance. And she expected her sister to help her be a success! So when Mary didn’t help, Martha let this build up so hot inside her, that she’s about ready to explode. When she does finally say something, it’s not even Martha she speaks to. It’s not Martha she’s upset with. She’s actually upset with Jesus! She resents Jesus for keeping Mary away from the work that she feels really needs to be done. “Lord, don’t you care?…” Lord, don’t you care about me and what I need? I need help.
Is your identity – how you view yourself and your self-worth – tied up in how well you perform or how well you’re able to provide as a mother/father, or wife/husband, or even a single man or woman? If your identity is performance-based like it was for Martha, then it will feel like that hamster running on the wheel in his cage. That hamster just runs and runs and runs trying to move forward, but never gets anywhere. That’s exhausting. Your identity as a Christian cannot be linked to how well you perform, how much you get done, how far you go, or how successful you are. A veteran Christian leader who served with InterVarsity college ministry for more than 40 years offers this advice: “The older I get, the less concerned I am with what I have or have not done… and the more concerned I am for what I have or have not become.” That is awesome advice! That is great insight. What are you becoming? How is Christ being formed in you? Are you more concerned about doing ministry than paying attention to your inner spiritual growth?