Duty And Devotion
38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
What brought you here today? Was it a sense of duty, you feel a sense of obligation, a responsibility to the Lord for all that He has done for you. Is it possible to serve the Lord out of habit rather than out of love?
In Luke chapter ten Jesus has been discussing with a Jewish religious leader the two great commands of the Scripture, that we are to love God with all our heart, mind and soul and that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus has just used the story of “The Good Samaritan” to illustrate how we should love our neighbor and now he uses the story of two sisters, Martha and Mary, to illustrate how we should love God.
The story that we are going to read about today (Luke 10:38-42) takes place in the village of Bethany which is located just outside of Jerusalem. From what we can learn from this passage and in John chapters 11 and 12, Martha lived with her sister Mary and their’ later to be famous brother Lazarus. It appears that Martha is a widow for she is the head of the household. Here in the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Jesus and His disciples sit down for some relaxation away from the press of the crowds. Here is a home that Jesus had been many times, a place that He knew He was loved and accepted.
Both sisters are delighted to see Jesus, but as you will see they express their enthusiasm in very different ways. In verse thirty-eight we are told, “Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. (39) And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.”
People have varying temperaments, some are active always needing to be busy, never able to sit still. Others are thoughtful, willing to sit back and think things through. Martha is a very activity-oriented person, her sister appeared to be of the more thoughtful nature.
I believe that we many times have wrongly contrasted Martha and Mary, as though each Christian should make a choice to either be a worker like Martha or a worshipper like Mary. But in so doing I think we miss the point. The Lord wants each of us to imitate Mary in our worship and Martha in our work, and to achieve balance in both.
Mary is content to sit at Jesus’ feet soaking up the Word, and not “do” anything. But her big sister, Martha was looking around at all the guest and sees the need to prepare a meal. Martha was obviously a great hostess, she got up and began to prepare food for Jesus and all those there with Him. Martha looked and said to herself “What privilege to prepare a meal for the Master!” Mary on the other hand would have said, “What a privilege to sit at the feet of the Master.” Is one right and the other wrong? No. Duty and Devotion are both necessary but there must be a balance.
Every action, every relationship, every institution has a basic focus, which is its reason for existence if it hopes to succeed, if loses that focus it will fail. When you lose your focus, which why you do what you do, then you are in trouble. This afternoon, I want us to look at this story and what it teaches about the cost of a loss of focus.
1. Loss Of Focus Caused Martha To Resort To Self-Pity (v. 40)
All of you ladies can know what entertaining unplanned visitor’s is like and why Martha is flustered and feeling more and more frustrated with each passing moment. The first part of verse forty tells us, “But Martha was distracted with much serving” the sense of the word translated “distracted” here is “to be pulled away” or “dragged away.” The implication is that Martha wanted to hear Jesus herself, she wanted to be seated at his feet too, but she was pulled away by her sense of her “duties.” Fretting about the meal has robbed her of the joy of her service to the Lord.
We should of course, take our responsibilities seriously, but not ourselves to the point that we overestimate our importance. The problem did not lie in the work that Martha was doing. It was the attitude that she was doing it with that became the problem. Martha’s problem was one of balance, between the going and doing and the sitting and listening.
My greatest fear in saying that is… that is that someone out there who is doing nothing will gratefully say “Amen” to what they think I said, and so excuse themselves from doing anything except ‘sitting”. The truth is that there are too many ‘sitters” now. The difference between Martha and Mary is not that one served and the other did not, but one served out of duty and the other out of devotion.
In our daily lives we can become so busy with the everyday things of life that we neglect the most important. In is interesting to think back, when I was a child there was a cartoon series on television called “The Jetsons” many of you may remember it. This show conveyed the common misconception of the time, that in the future modern conveniences would produce more and more leisure time in people’s lives. Loss Of Focus Caused Martha To Resort To Self-Pity and
2. Loss Of Focus Causes Martha To Become Angry At Others.
Our world is full of distractions. And the more the pressure, the most tempting it is to focus on the urgent rather than the essential. Now, I think through this pandemic, with the way the world is now…have we slowed down at all? Some are now working from home, our children are now studying from home. (online) Can’t really go out and do much. Everywhere you go there are restrictions. Are we still busy? Have we slowed down to the point that we are spending more time with the Lord? Are we actually spending more time with our family?
I truly believe that Martha wanted to honor Jesus. I even believe that she began her work with the right attitude. All of you ladies can identify with what I am about to say. You begin the task of huge festive meal (like Thanksgiving) with the greatest of enthusiasm, but as time passed you came to realize that you are running out of time and you cannot possibly finish everything that you planned to do.
When that happens, you get angry – angry at yourself for letting yourself get in this fix and angry with anyone else who might have made a difference in accomplishing your goals. Martha was like that, the harder she worked the more worked up she became. Some people “burn out” in service but Martha was “burned up” in hers. It is bad enough to have to do everything. It is even worse when we can think of someone who we do not feel is pulling their weight and who has let us down. That is what I see happening to Martha.
Loss Of Focus Causes Martha To Become Angry At Others and…
3. Loss Of Focus Causes Martha To Find Fault With Others.
In second part of verse forty, Martha finally exploded and she comes boiling out of the kitchen, red-faced and furious and says, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to help me."
She doesn’t even call her sister by name. In her defense perhaps she had already done everything she could think of to attract Mary’s attention and signal her that she needed help. We all have ways that we use to get a message across. We clear our throats. We make attention-getting motions.
Martha cannot get Mary’s attention. We are even more irritated when the other person ignores us. Mary was willing to face Martha’s anger, because sitting at the feet of Jesus mean everything to her at this point. No one can force us to be devoted, it is a voluntary decision.
Loss Of Focus Causes Martha To Find Fault With Others
4. Loss Of Focus Causes Martha To Question God’s Care.
Whatever Martha has already done to get Mary’s attention, she is totally exasperated now and speaks directly to Jesus. There is an accusation in her voice when she says, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me."
Martha was angry at Mary for being so selfish and she is angry at Jesus for allowing this to go on. Notice that Martha addressed her irritation to Jesus, you have to admit that she is one gutsy woman. Martha is accusing Jesus of not caring for her, because she was sure that if Jesus really cared for her, He would tell Mary to get up and help her. Today she would say something to the effect of “Lord you know what a ding bat my sister is, but you are a part of the problem too. You tell her to get her sweet self in here and help me!” In saying this she not only rebuked her sister but also the one for whom all of these preparations are being made. Whenever our service causes us to criticize others and pity ourselves because we feel overworked, we had better take time to examine our lives! Which fruit of the Spirit are we showing? NONE!
It is interesting how Martha links Jesus’ care for her with His willingness to tell Mary to get busy helping her. Martha thought that she knew how Jesus should demonstrate His care for her. I wonder do we do that? Do we ever accuse God of not caring for us, because we have already decided what His care for us looks like?
Part of the Martha’s problem was that she worried to much about what others were doing. Martha’s concern over Mary reminds us of Peter in John chapter 21 where Jesus was explaining to Peter what the future held for him (vv. 18-19), he only had one question he looked at John and asked, “But what this man” (v. 21). Jesus reminded Peter that was not really any of his concern. He just needed to follow Jesus (v. 22).” In today’s text Jesus by His refusal to do as Martha had asked demonstrates that, although what she was doing was valuable work, she should worry less about Mary’s choices. It all boiled down to the fact that Martha wanted to force Mary to serve Christ her way.
Loss Of Focus Causes Martha To Question God’s Care and
5. Loss of Focus Can Be Eliminated by
Remembering Why We Are Doing What We Are Doing? (vv. 41-42)
In verse forty-one Jesus responds to Martha, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. (42) But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."
Jesus responds with great tenderness. Notice first that Jesus did not rebuke her for making preparations for Him and the other guest. He is not rejecting Martha’s attempt to serve Him. Martha’s problem was not that she was preparing food for her guest to eat, this was necessary. But she gave too much importance to it. Today we still have to be careful that we do not let the necessary things that must be done get out of balance and distort our lives. Causing tension in our household, our relationships and most importantly, our relationship with our Lord!
The core of Martha’s problem is that she tried to impose her value system on Mary. Note that Jesus did not tell Martha to do what Mary was doing. It was Martha’s attitude that needed correction, but Martha’s work was both good and necessary. The reality is that as believers today we need to cultivate both the Martha and the Mary in each of us.
Martha came to Jesus because she wanted Him to lighten the load that day. He did what she wanted but not in the way that she had expected. He lightened her load not by having Mary help her but by giving her a new perspective on her work. When we forget why we are doing what we are doing we can get turned upside down, and we may end up feeling overworked and unappreciated.
Unless we the take time, to spend time with Jesus personally and privately, we will soon end up like Martha busy but not blessed. Martha was not wrong nor was Mary. It is case of where one did good and the other better.
The Christian life is learning to balance duty and devotion. Sitting without serving is powerless.
Serving without sitting is directionless. Serving after sitting produces power and balance.
I don’t want to close our story of these two sister’s without understanding the part they play in Biblical history. One of the two greatest confessions concerning the person of Jesus Christ was given by Martha and recorded in John 11:27, “Yes Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” the other was given by Peter recorded in Matthew 16:16. “Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The setting for Martha’s confession was that the death of her brother Lazarus, Jesus had arrived and was seeking to comfort her and told her, “I am the resurrection and the life and He who believe in me will never die.” In turn He asked Martha if she believed this. Her response is one of the greatest confessions of all time, for Martha replies, “Yes Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is come into the world.”
She evidently overcame her propensity to be distracted long enough and sat at the feet of Jesus enough to grow into a woman of profound faith. We also have more recorded about her sister Mary. We meet Mary two more times, in Scripture, and each time she is at the feet of Jesus. In John chapter twelve in what is one of the most moving pictures of sacrificial worship recorded in scripture we are told, “Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany… (2) There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. (3) Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil”
She was severely criticized by at least one apostle and possibly others for her action. Did she quit because of the criticism? No. She was one of the women at the tomb on the morning of the resurrection. When you sit at the feet of Jesus you learn not to quit because of hard feelings. You learn to turn the other cheek and go on.
In Matthew 26:13 we find that Jesus had these words of compliment to say concerning this act of Mary, “… wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” These two passages, concerning Martha’s confession and Mary’s worship, give evidence that both these sisters achieved the balance between duty and devotion.
But the question remains, “What about you?” Will you just take a moment to reflect? Where is your focus is? Have you been giving yourself to non-essentials – things that are here today but tossed out tomorrow? Through this pandemic, I think it has given every believer a time to pause…to slow down. It has given us more time with the Lord. More time with our family. Church…these are the things that are eternal.
Pastor Richard Santos
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