But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” – Luke 10:40
Jesus’ response of “Martha, Martha” is incredibly well-known and oft quoted, but I’m always fascinated by Martha’s initial complaint. Her demand that Jesus require Mary to pull her weight. How many people in the Bible feel justified to boss around the Son of God? To lay a guilt trip at the feet of the Lord and think it’s going to work? I mean really.
The origin of “Do you not care” is the same Greek word the disciples used when they were faced with stormy seas and Jesus slept while they battled for their very lives (so they thought). Clearly Martha felt strongly that her sister should be helping. She did not miss the acute unfairness of being saddled with the work of caring for those in her home, while her sister just sat around at the feet of Jesus. Lazy Mary, lapping up the Lord’s teaching and escaping any responsibility for guests.
I see so much of Martha in the “I’m a good person” crowd. The intense desire to demonstrate service. To say and do the “right” things. To demand the world follow suit in the same manner. The expectation is blatant. Because they are willing to make the sacrifice of serving…you should be too. And if you aren’t, well then, you are just a selfish, good for nothing, “bad” person. Shame on you. It’s such a manipulative ploy. Insisting you be viewed through the prism of their decisions, and then blaming you, getting angry at you for not measuring up.
I wonder how much of Martha’s gripe was an inner need for her own service to be recognized. To be honored for delivering such charitable hospitality to her guests. Was she worried her servant’s heart would go unnoticed? Unappreciated? Or maybe she was just regretting her position. Martha had welcomed Jesus into her house (verse 38). Then, as she scurried about with work to accommodate her guest, her sister gained all the rewards of Christ’s presence. Reaping the joy and pleasure of His word without any effort. It wasn’t Mary’s fault Martha volunteered to be host. Mary hadn’t signed up to throw a dinner party, Martha did. Yet Martha was supremely irritated that Mary wasn’t sharing her burden. Demanding (through the “don’t you care” guilt-trip) that Jesus require Mary take responsibility for the choice Martha made. Essentially saying “If I have to serve, she should too. Make her.”.
For most of my life, I’ve been a Martha. Scrambling to do everything…for everyone. Feeling responsible. All. The. Time. Caring far too much how I’m viewed by others. Family, friends, mentors, teachers, parents, friends of my parents – their opinions and pleasure with my service was pretty much my idol. I’ve always felt Martha got a bad rap. As a doer, I completely sympathized with the feeling of unfairness at always being the one to pick up the slack and make it easy for everyone else. However, in the past year, I’ve been totally released into the simple delight of a life spent soaking up as much of the Lord as I can possibly get. To be captivated by His glory. Allowing all the cares and worries of the world to fade away in His presence. There’s peace from troubles and freedom from expectations in His word. It’s a beautiful restful place. Mary chose time with the Lord as her highest priority, and this Martha has recently learned just how right she was.