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 then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 11:40-42 ESV
If the Bible were ever meant to be entertaining, this little portion of scriptures does the job. Interesting dynamics are working, grabbing our attention, mostly because relating with the passage is so easy. For context, Martha has welcomed Jesus and company to her home, and, as any good hostess, she feels the weight of care. No doubt many people visited—where the Savior went multitudes and responsibility followed. But of all the folks with Martha, there was one person annoying her most—her sister Mary! Her sibling had chosen not to help, but sit and listen to Jesus minister.
Three questions impress me about Martha. First question: What must it be like…
Living with Martha the Steward?
40 But Martha was distracted with much serving.
Luke tells us she was distracted with much serving. The word for distracted in the Greek means, “to be driven about mentally, to be over-occupied, too busy, about a thing.¹” Apparently, a person can reach a point were they are too much of a steward—possessed with it. In fact, the verb in the Greek is actually a passive verb. The idea is that you are drawn around, or drawn away by the thing! The object possesses you and all you can do is follow it where it goes. For Martha it was serving. The obsessive-compulsive behavior took hold of her and she could not help herself, ending up defining her life by this conduct!
Second question: What must it be like…
Living with Martha the Maniacal?
40 …And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
Eventually, without intervention, Martha is going to become maniacal in her obsession. You don’t think so? Listen to what she tells the Lord: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” She begins giving orders to Jesus! She commands him tell Mary to get to work. Martha is becoming obnoxious in her demands—maniacal. She invited the Lord to her house; she knew that many people accompany Him where He goes. She was aware of all the work entailed in having Him over. She made the choices and now demands her sister live with her decisions. And all the time Martha’s convinced herself she’s the one being treated so unfairly. Martha does not see how maniacal she’s become nor how she appears to Jesus. The poor woman is even drawn to the point of accusing her Savior, “do you not care!” Well, of coarse the Lord cares for Martha, and when she begins getting too demanding He’s going to be straightforward and open with her.
Third question: What must it be like…
Living with Martha the Miserable?
41 “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.
Just how miserable do you want to make those around you and yourself? Martha chose to be anxious and troubled about her life and began projecting it upon others. The Lord was asking her politely to back off with forcing people into her choices. He doesn’t bring it up until she comes to Him—what a true gentleman! The way out of Martha type “obsessive-compulsive behavior” is discovering the one thing necessary for the moment. What is the will of God and decide that is most important—all else can wait. Figure it out and learn to relax. Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” not cumbered about by many things. Mary found that out—“Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Oh to be a little more Mary and a lot less Martha!
J. Robert Hanson
1 Thayer and Smith. “Greek Lexicon entry for Perispao”