Luke 10:38-40“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, he did not have a steady income or salary to support him. He rarely stayed in one place very long. Any offerings in the synagogues where he preached went to support the synagogues. Often he taught the people out in the open air. The Bible tells us that several of the women who put their faith in him supported him from their own means. That was what Martha was doing for him here.
Martha can be commended for a couple of reasons. First, when Jesus came to stay, it was rarely just Jesus that needed accommodations. At least 12 other men came with him. Between Jesus and his disciples, Martha had a houseful to serve and look after. You can’t criticize her generosity or hard work.
Secondly, as humble as her work may appear, she was providing real service to God’s Kingdom. This obscure incident may not qualify as a watershed event in world history, but God was using her service to support his plan of salvation. You can call it mere housework, but Martha’s cooking and cleaning were playing a role in Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus has some things to criticize about Martha later. But don’t think he was criticizing her willingness to serve. Many today find it easy to let lives their lives revolve around their own enjoyment, hobbies, or activities. These keep them from inconveniencing themselves to serve Jesus as Martha did.
Some undervalue little things at church like mowing the grass, sweeping a floor, painting a wall, or attending a voter’s meeting. These are still Kingdom work. They still serve the ministry of the Gospel.
Consider Jesus’ promise that when we feed the hungry or visit the sick, he considers that service to him. It wasn’t easy or convenient for Martha to open her home, but it was evidence that her heart had been opened. For this Martha is to be commended.
Her service wasn’t perfect, however. “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’” Martha was distracted. She was anxious. There were so many preparations that had to be made, and so little help. Her work was full of fear and doubt.
Many of us see a mountain of work in God’s Kingdom. The work doesn’t seem to be getting done. No one seems involved. We get anxious. We get worried. Then we approach the work of the church like Chicken Little: “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Jesus’ promises that “gates of hell will not prevail against (my church).” God never appointed us to be the new Messiahs. His work gets done in his way, in his time. Concern and ambition have their place, but fear and anxiety will not help.
Martha’s example also cautions us against self-righteousness. Instead of finding simple joy in the privilege of serving Jesus, she becomes obsessed with what everyone else is doing (or failing to do). She has made herself the standard by which Mary is to be judged.
Are we guilty of the same thing from time to time? We want to be people who spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). But when we start judging others because they don’t serve the way that I am serving, then we have become more than a little like Martha here, more than a little self-righteous.
The Gospel sets us free to serve our Savior! Forgiveness makes our contribution acceptable even when it is tainted by worry or self-righteous motives. Our humble work is a response to Jesus great work of redeeming you and me. This same grace applies to everyone else as well. There are many ways to show our love. Some may be serving in ways we aren’t aware of. Let’s be thankful for the things we can do, and the Savior whose grace to us has made it possible.