The Martha Syndrom
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
Scripture Luke 10:38-42
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40 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!"
41 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
PICTURE IN YOUR MIND THE DYNAMICS OF WHAT GOES ON IN THIS PASSAGE
Mary and Martha are at home, somebody comes to the door and announces that in just two hours Jesus will be coming for Lunch! Along with his disciples! All 15 of them!! And they will be hungry, they've been walking all morning, and they will probably be smelly and dirty!
There's only one thing to do. Mary and Martha start working! But time flies quickly and before all the work is done, Jesus and his disciples enter the door! Salad still isn't made, bread isn't cut, table isn't set, the meat isn't done, there is a ton of work to be done.
Wouldn't you know it, there is a ton to be done, and there is Mary, distracted from her duties, sitting at the feet of Jesus, taking it easy, listening and talking to the rest of the disciples.
ASK YOURSELF, IN THAT KIND OF SITUATION WHOSE SIDE YOU WOULD BE ON?
Would you side with Mary, who is taking it easy at the feet of Jesus? Or would you side with Martha, who seems to have a real awareness when it's time to work and get things done?
I suspect most of you are like me, we identify with Martha and we really understand Martha's resentment when she says to Jesus "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?" Tell her then to help me!
Martha has a lot of things to do, and she knows that the only way to get them done is by at least two people getting down and doing it. By herself it feels like to big a task.
Most of us would identify with Martha in that situation Work comes before rest, First things first, then go rest later.
NOTICE WHO JESUS IDENTIFIES WITH.
RATHER THAN IDENTIFYING WITH MARTHA, HE IDENTIFIES WITH MARY!
He says "Martha, Martha, 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."
Jesus knows that Martha has many things to do, but he chooses to side with Mary because Mary has chosen the one thing that is needful.
WHAT IS IT THAT SHE HAS CHOSEN?
In her hunger for the kingdom of God, she goes and sits at the feet of Jesus, learning as a child the principles that would forever be hers by grace. Her spirit senses that this Jesus is the full revelation of God for mankind - it is his grace and his truth for our lives. Mary senses that in getting to know her Lord, she will get to know him in all his love and mercy, the very Savior come to deliver her and set her free from her sin and the riegn of Satan in her life. What Mary knew was of primary importance was her relationship with Jesus Christ. Her relationship with him was the one thing that is needful. It is that relationship, based in faith that joins her to Jesus, and lets her share in the benefits of the Kingdom of God. The relationship Christ built with her there would last forever.
" Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
IN CONTRAST, MARTHA IS DISTRACTED TO SERVICE.
Even though Jesus is right in her presence, even though the very center of her life (she probably has the same hunger that Mary does) is just a few feet away, all that passes through her mind is the things that she has to do.
The Salad, the table, do we have enough chairs? etc....
Martha is distracted to service!
The intent of this passage is not to undermine Christian service, Notice, in our passage, Jesus does not condenm what Martha is doing. Jesus intends to say just one thing - that relationship with him, learning and growing in the kingdom, being rooted and grounded in his love must be prior to service, service must spring out of that relationship with Jesus Christ.
Martha is distracted from that relationship.
MARTHA IS SUFFERING FROM THE MARTHA SYNDROM.
The Martha syndrome is when a Christian lets something else take the place of or interfere with our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The Martha syndrome is when we let the pressures of life, take over and displace our relationship with Christ. We become distracted from what is most necessary. We let the urgent overtake the important. We let relationship succumb to service.
WE CAN RECOGNIZE IT IN OUR OWN LIVES BY ITS SYMPTOMS
One of its symptoms is an awareness that at one time we cherished the love of God, his fellowship in worship, devotions and prayer much more than we do now. It seems much harder to pray like we used to. Our relationship seems to have become a little distant, even cold.
We can find another symtom in our feelings, when we feel like we are doing all the work, while others sit down, have their devotions, their bible study or prayer meeting. We might even get angry that none of them are doing the work and carrying their part of the load. Others seem to be to heavenly minded to be of any earthly good!
We have the Martha syndrom when we find ourselves to busy to spend time with God personally, in the study of his word and growth in prayer. We have the Martha syndrom when we somehow feel that we can leave those things until later, right now we have work to do.
We have the Martha syndrome when we let the one thing that is needful slip because more pressing things are coming at us from all sides. And slowly, our relationship with the Lord, our knowledge of his word, our awareness of his presence ebbs away. Our relationship grows distant and weak.
The Martha syndrome can happen in other relationships too.
This happens in marriages. Often, first in a marriage there is vitality, love, romance, but as work comes into the picture - then children, school, business interests, it is very possible because of busyness that partners run past each other for all they have to do. And one day they look at each other and have to say "I don't know you any more!"
The Martha Syndrome is to be distracted from a relationship of love to service/business.
THE MARTHA SYNDROME CAN HAPPEN TO ENTIRE CHURCHES!
In Revelation chapter 2, the angel of the Lord writes a letter to the Church at Ephesus , a church known for all its hard work, its dedication to service and adherence to doctrinal truth. (even persecuted)
2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
But notice this
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
The Martha syndrome - is when we abandon our first love Jesus Christ.
WE'VE SEEN WHAT THE MARTHA SYNDROME IS, WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT? HOW CAN WE RESTORE WHAT THE FELLOWSHIP WE ONCE KNEW?
IF the Martha syndrome is a broken relationship, it will help us first of all to examine in our lives . WHAT IT IS THAT CAUSED THAT RELATIONSHIP TO BREAK? What came between us and our Lord?
Often it is those things that are good - like service for the Kingdom of God.
Our passage says that Martha was distracted by much serving. She knew how much had to be done, she knew the coffee and juice had to be served, so she gave herself to that and at the same time begrudged Mary for sitting at Jesus feet and learning of the Kingdom of God.
Martha said Mary was distracted. The truth is, Martha was the was who was distracted!.
For us to, we can get distracted from what is needful, we can get distracted from our relationship with Christ simply by the urgent pressures of every day. After all, our job seems to take up all our concentration for at least 8 hours a day. Then when we get home, its at least the news, and maybe a baseball game thereafter! And boy would we have lots of time if we didn't have kids! Then there's those nagging projects in the yard, or preparing for a meeting, or another elders visit. In the end, we've run all day long, doing good things, working hard for the Kingdom of God - but in it all, we have been distracted from the one thing that is needful.
Understand, in this there is Satan's design. Once a person belongs to Christ, Christ will not lose us. But Satan loves to disconnect us from the very life blood of our life in Christ, he knows that if we serve without him, without intimate relationship, without the supply line, we will be fruitless (John 15), we will burn out, get weary, tired, disenchanted and disgruntled like Martha!
MARTHA MAY HAVE HAD OTHER REASONS FOR BEING DRIVEN TO SERVE Our passage does not tell us. Maybe she had misconceptions about what Christ was about. Maybe she felt that she had to return the favor of Christ, give a return on the gift of grace because she did not feel worthy of it. Maybe she felt that she was saved to serve, which in the right context is true, but if we serve outside of that relationship with Jesus, our service is of no value.
WHAT OUR PASSAGE DOES SAY IS THAT MARTHA WAS DISTRACTED BY MUCH SERVICE. AND IT DOES SAY WHAT THE CURE TO THIS DISTRACTION, THE MARTHA SYNDROM, IS.
Jesus said "only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Freedom from the Martha Syndrome is based in a choice - a choice to choose the good portion. A choice to place our relationship with Christ, our learning of his kingdom, our fellowship in his presence as a highest priority.
Mary choose to feed on God's word, to wait for him, dwell in his presence and from that presence receive strength so that in her running she would not grow weary, in her service she would not be fruitless and grow faint.
Mary choose to be with Jesus, to see him for who he really was, the one who in mercy accepted her, washed away her many sins. Even though she was so stained with sin - the Lord forgave her because of a relationship (not service!). And in another passage of Luke, we see this same Mary anointing Jesus feet with oil and wiping them with her hair - in thankfulness because she had been forgiven much. She received forgiveness not because of her extensive service and works, no she received all that forgiveness because she was joined to Jesus in a close relationship of love.
For us, we too need to make that choice. That choice will involve turning away from some of those sometimes good, sometimes not so good things that distract us from the Kingdom of God. The Lord calls us, as he called the church in Ephesus, in REV 2, to repent, to turn back to what we did at first when we knew his love, when we sat at his feet and fed and the bread and water of life that he came to give.
Brothers and sisters in Christ
Make the choice! Choose the good portion! Grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, in his prescence learn to appreciate him as your bridegroom, for his love for you, and his kingdom within you, will never be taken away.
"One thing is needful, Choose the good portion, it will never be taken away from you."
Lord, you made to us a promise. You said "Iwill be your God, you will be my people." These are words of covenant commitment, an obligation you have kept in Christ. Help us to take full responsibility for our part of the covenant, the obligation to maintain, encourage and nurture our relationship with you., Grant us the ability, determination, and the grace of your spirit to truly make that choice, to turn from our distractions so that we can say with the Psalmist
The Lord is my chosen
portion and my Cup
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.