I want to be like Mary.
There’s nothing like a perfect dinner party or family event. Unfortunately, there are many times I have missed the fun because I was trying to get everything ready! If you have the gift of hospitality you always want things to be right. You want the house to look right, the food to taste good, the porch to be swept clean and the plan well organized. It is a lot of hard work! And often times, the work continues after the guests arrive.
Looking back across the years I realize there have been many moments when I had to ask for the conversation to be repeated when something really funny or really important or really beautiful happened. Why? Because I was working in the kitchen.
Everyone thanks you for a great meal and lovely evening. They leave. You realize that you missed it!
In the Bible there is a story about two sisters, Mary and Martha, who were having a dinner party. They had invited a special friend over to the house. This guest was one that they had welcomed to their home before and everyone wanted to sit and listen when he came to visit. His words were insightful, instructive, encouraging and filling. Jesus was their special guest.
For Mary and Martha it was very important to have everything right for Him. They wanted the house to be swept, the furniture in order a good place for him to sit as he enjoyed time in their home. I imagine they had a room prepared with fresh linens and a water pitcher by the bed so that he would be comfortable in the night if He stayed as their guest.
Martha had plenty of food cooking on the stove and fresh bread baking in the oven because she wanted to provide a special feast for this Man who had given her so very, very much. When he arrived everyone was excited and they all gathered in the family room and sat down to spend time with Jesus…everyone but Martha, who was tending to food.
Mary and the other guests listened to Jesus talk about where He had been and about all that miracles that had taken place during his travels. He probably told them about the people who had been changed along the way. And then he began to teach them.
From the kitchen, Martha could hear Jesus teaching in the other room but she couldn’t leave the stove. The bread would burn! And then I imagine that she started to think about her sister sitting at Jesus’ feet. And she began to feel left out, and unhappy with her sister, who was not carrying her part of the load!
After all, she was working really hard for her Lord preparing this meal, making sure everything she was doing would please him. I can imagine her finally saying to herself, “Enough is enough! I’m going to go tell Jesus to send my sister in to help me!”
So she goes into the other room where everyone is gathered and she interrupts Jesus, “Master won’t you tell my sister to get up and come and help me make this meal? I shouldn’t have to do all of the work, while she sits here and does nothing!”
Jesus replies in a way that’s really difficult to swallow if you are someone who has the spiritual gift of hospitality or service. Jesus says to this hard working friend, “What you’re doing is not important right now. The most important thing to do is what Mary is doing. Sitting here at my feet and letting me teach her.”
I know that is hard to swallow for those of us who have spent our lives working hard for Jesus. Having been a staff member at a church for 25 years I certainly understand the importance of hard work in serving Christ. But if I look back over my life and even more than the conversations I have missed during a dinner party in my home, I have probably missed some incredible moments with Christ because I worked myself ragged “doing” while the Savior was sitting in the living room of my heart ready to speak to me. All the while I was in the church doing, or in the laundry room washing or in bed sleeping because I was so exhausted from all of my service for him in the kitchen.
So which one are you– Mary or Martha?
Jesus is sitting in residence today in the living room of your heart. He has so much to share with you! Let me encourage you to find the balance between the two. If you say proudly, “I’m Mary”, please, don’t leave all the work to someone else! Do your share so Martha isn’t so exhausted all the time and grumbling because she’s missing out.
If you’ll do your part Mary, Martha will be ready to sit down with Jesus when He shows up at the house!
Martha, if there is too much work to be done and no one else will do it, you have to come to a place in your life where you will stop and sit down at the feet of Jesus for the well-being of your soul and the strength of your mind, heart and emotions. Sit at his feet; listen to His voice and learn from him while he is here. Jesus told Martha that Mary had made the better choice by sitting down at His feet to learn from Him. Why do we need to be still at times?
So you can teach your children. So you can serve better in the community. So that you will want to be in the house of God. So you’re a better spouse. Better parent. Better friend. Better child. Better employee. Better manager.
I want to be like Mary because too often I find myself in the kitchen like Martha…working.
One more very important thing to note, both women had a personal relationship with Jesus. But all of Martha’s doing didn’t gain her more favor from Jesus than Mary did in her stillness.
We must be about the work of Christ. But the work of Christ will not save us. I want to be like Mary. How about you? Have you found the balance in your life?
Pray this prayer with me: Dear Jesus, help me sit at your feet and learn from you so I can daily serve you and others with power, wisdom, love and grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen