“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!””
Luke 10:40 NIV
Much has been written about Martha and her sister Mary. I doubt I’ve thought of something that no one else has uncovered in this poignant short story. However, as I read Luke 10:38–42 with today’s eyes and heart, I see something new for myself.
In their day and culture, women did not sit at the feet of a Rabbi. Women were not personally taught by a Teacher. A woman’s proper role was in the back, preparing to serve the men of the household and guests. Mary’s posture as a student was scandalous.
And for the first time, as I read again, I think Martha was afraid. Yes, I think Martha was annoyed that she was working so hard to prepare the meal and serve their guest, but her underlying motivation, I think, was fear.
Martha wasn’t doing any more work than normal. She was probably accustomed to carrying the bulk of the workload. I think Martha was afraid that Mary’s behavior would bring scorn and retribution upon Martha’s household.
Perhaps Martha was the first born, careful to obey the rules. Maybe, just maybe, Mary was young enough to think she could get away with the impetuous dawdling of a child. We’re not told the details of the story.
However, as a firstborn myself, I can relate to Martha’s angst. Many time’s growing up with a younger brother, we were given tasks to complete, and often the younger sibling preferred to dawdle rather than work.
Work before play! That’s the rule.
I don’t remember a particular set of circumstances, but I do remember the fear in the pit of my stomach when my brother refused to follow the rules. I know I not only covered his half of the work, I also know I complained to Mom that the whole of life as the oldest was completely unfair.
I wanted our Mom to make him do his fair share. Yet, to be completely honest, it was fear of getting in trouble, both for his sake and my own, that motivated my striving and my complaints.
Even as I write, I remember a similar conversation between the resurrected Jesus and Peter, the denier. Peter, newly restored and called to follow Jesus, looked and saw another disciple nearby. Read what happened next…
“Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.””
John 21:21-22 NLT
I think Jesus was offering Martha an invitation, a seat at the table. She wasn’t excluded from sitting with the Rabbi. Mary wasn’t chosen over her. Martha excluded herself because she allowed fear to hold her hostage to comparison and complaint.
It’s easier to point at someone else, complain and be jealous of their freedom, than to sit with Jesus and let Him help me examine my own heart. I think Jesus is inviting me to talk to Him about my fear, and to bring all my complaints to Him. I know Jesus wants me to be free to take my seat with Him at the table.
Striving doesn’t set a beautiful table, but relationship does…
What about you, friend? Do you need to come clean with Jesus about fear, about the true reason for your striving? His invitation is for you too.
Eyes on Jesus and Shine,
Participating today with Kate Motaung and friends at Five Minute Friday for a link up party. The word is striving.