Sometimes I think my middle name should be Martha. I get stuff done. I like checking stuff off a list. My friends know if they need help with a project they can call me. If my church needs volunteers for an event, I'm there. These are all good things. I enjoy using the task-oriented problem-solving personality God gave me. But sometimes my do list gets in the way of my relationships.
In Luke chapter 10, we read about Martha and her sister Mary. One day Jesus and his disciples were traveling, and Mary invited them over for a meal. While Martha was making lunch, setting the table, and straightening the house, Mary was hanging out with Jesus. This annoyed Martha, and she said to Jesus, "Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me!" (Luke 10:40). Jesus responded, telling her, "My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:41-42).
Martha may have been a task person, like me. But this passage suggests she wasn't enjoying using her God-given gifts at that moment. Her complaints to Jesus imply she resented Mary for lazing at the feet of Jesus while Martha did all the work. Perhaps Martha didn't want to be stuck in the kitchen; she wanted to be visiting with Jesus too. But someone had to get the food on the table. If she's anything like me, she was probably thinking, If I don't do it, no one else will.
Obligation and guilt aren't very good motivations for doing something, especially when I'm supposed to be doing all for the glory of God. Further, God doesn't intend for one person to do all the work. By asking for help, I invite others into the fellowship of service.
There is another lesson in this story. Martha is annoyed with Mary, but she goes to Jesus and asks that he solve the problem. Jesus is their dear friend, and a guest. Martha is asking him to get in the middle of a squabble between the two women; a squabble that Mary probably doesn't even know exists because Martha hasn't said anything to her. Matthew 18:15 says, "If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back." In the same vein, Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth in love.
Conflict with a loved one is painful. I would rather talk to a sympathetic friend than go to the person directly. Yet reconciliation requires the harder path. Honoring a friend means being honest and telling her when my feelings have been hurt. That's hard to do, especially in my most treasured relationships. However, without transparency, a relationship cannot grow past a certain point. I either need to let it go, or I need to say something. Chances are the other person doesn't know my feelings were hurt. Or, I misinterpreted the intent behind what they did or said. A transparent conversation will uncover the misunderstanding and reveal whether or not there is opportunity for reconciliation.
In my zeal to get work done, I sometimes lose sight of the people God has place in my life, and the joy I experience in serving them. But as I try to love them with the love of Jesus, I remember to choose what is better: resting at the feet of Jesus.
Are you a Martha or a Mary?
Diana Prange serves as an IT/computer services purchasing agent at Christianity Today.