Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Martha Syndrome

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, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." -Luke 10: 40-41

I don’t know about you, but this is one Bible story that has been in my repertoire since childhood. It’s pretty simple and has a clear message:  Pick Jesus over housework. Or maybe…worry about your soul before your earthly responsibilities? Or, be willing to drop all your plans if someone special comes to visit?

Okay, good lesson…but I have to ask the question…what about responsibilities? Don’t those have a place in the Kingdom? Wasn’t the Proverbs 31 goddess woman always bustling about, being productive? continue/-

One time recently I felt convicted about being too involved in activities to engage in fellowship. I simply could not make myself relax. After all, there was a flute to be tuned and a Sunday school room to prepare. There was no time for chatting in the hallway! No room for distractions! Stay focused!

And then, walking home, you realize that those aren’t distractions, those are people. And you miss them.

At a planning meeting recently, it turned out that quite a few of us felt isolated, despite being pretty heavily involved in church activities. And one of the reasons is that it’s hard to separate yourself from tasks and schedules long enough to have a deep conversation with someone. There is no time to just stop and enjoy the presence of the Lord among brothers and sisters. Or sometimes it isn't a matter of timing, but of being able to emotionally engage. What day is Bible study and who is in charge of Sunday school next time and where did they put the props from last time and how many sick people do we have to pray for and here comes the next church for their choir practice.


I could spend a fair amount of time analyzing my own personality and what I need to do to discipline myself to be a better communicator. But that’s ridiculous. This is a matter of the heart! And it’s a question of group dynamics, not individual rebellious personalities. It’s a question of looking outward.

It’s hard to relax when we can’t control every situation,  whether we are introverts lost among extroverts, men at a meeting geared toward women, hymn-lovers at a contemporary worship service, etc.

Meeting other people’s needs is always a good way to forget one's own grievances. But in order to meet other people’s needs, we have to get to know them well. Maybe one friend likes to communicate by phone, another likes to do an activity together, another is always touched by notes and little gifts. And how do we know which situation will minister to a person’s heart? We have to ask them, or try different approaches to see what works. In other words, we have to be persistent, intentional...


  1. Great thinking . . . I am coming to a place (I believe God is bringing me here) where I'm learning to slow down, listen, and respond. It is not about what we DO, meetings, church "ministry", committees, works, organizations . . . Our LIFE is about abiding in Jesus and Him abiding in us. From Him . . . and His Time/Ways are not our own . . . living in and through us . . . comes LOVE in all our relationships . . . and it is in LOVE that all is made new.
    None of this has ever happened in me when I've been busy DOING.
    Isn't this just what Jesus was teaching Martha and Mary - - stay with/in Him - and everything else will flow out of our Relationship with Him.
    I don't think I ever really believed it was that simple - always felt I had to be working . . . I'm learning differently and there is such FREEDOM!

  2. Хорошее размышление. Да, и служение может стать суетой.

  3. See, I always feel badly for Martha. She really was just taking her responsibilities seriously, trying to be a gracious hostess and make Jesus comfortable it seems to me. And goodness knows I would have been upset with Mary for slacking. ;> So I feel for her.

    And maybe need to learn the same lesson...though you'd never guess it by the state of my house!

  4. D'Anna, good point about His time and ways not being our own. I think that is what Kate was getting at too, that if we act according to what makes SENSE for human life, Martha's behavior seems to be more proper.

    I don't know if it is always possible to physically stop and do less. I think in my case I was thinking more about having a better attitude and appreciating each moment rather than just going into robot mode and then wondering why everything feels so pointless.


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