Martha and Mary’s Hidden Gem

If you listen to playing children for very long, you’ll most likely hear the words, “That’s not fair!” Exasperated parents often respond with, “I’m sorry, but life’s not always fair.”  

If we’re honest, even as adults, it’s easy to fall into the “that’s not fair” trap. We grudgingly witness others happily waking up in our dreams, or we believe God is taking His own sweet time in initiating our calling. We impatiently think (but wouldn’t dare say out loud), “That’s not fair!” 

Deep down we know that receiving different blessings in different ways at different times can be the fairest thing of all. Yet, we might not readily realize that if the blessings expertly showered on others had also rained down on us we might possibly drown in pride. If we waste time resenting opportunities being handed to others, we miss our own teachable moments. We might even need more time to get rid of some things that aren’t good for us.

God knows precisely how He made each of us and for what purposes.  We can trust His timing in dispensing blessings and opportunities. Yet, when things don’t turn out the way we hoped, our flesh not only grows impatient with Him, but also with ourselves and those around us. I think that was Martha’s trouble with Mary.

You’ve no doubt heard hundreds of sermons about the scene with Martha and Mary at the end of Luke 10. Jesus came to visit them and their brother Lazarus. Martha got busy with the meal preparations while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. An exasperated Martha fussed, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!” In other words, “That’s not fair!” You can probably quote Jesus’ famous gentle rebuke, “Martha, Martha! You are worried and troubled over so many things, but just one is needed. Mary has chosen the right thing, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Most every lesson I’ve heard related to that scene focuses on Martha’s busyness and Mary’s willingness to sit with Jesus. While valuable lessons surely come from that focus, there seems to be a hidden gem within the story that the Spirit recently helped me excavate.

It’s plausible that Martha thought Mary should serve Jesus the same way she served Him. She was the doer who saw her acts of service as the best way to honor Jesus. Mary, on the other hand, took things to heart and honored Jesus by listening and learning. Even though they were sisters, perhaps Martha didn’t completely understand Mary’s gifting or calling. They were two very distinct people with two very distinct ways of honoring Jesus.

Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the right thing. Yes, sitting at His feet was and is definitely the right thing, but maybe that was merely Mary’s best way to show her love for Jesus. Perhaps preparing the meal was Martha’s best expression of love. Two different gifts. Two different expressions. Same love.

Later, after Jesus raised their brother Lazarus from the dead, they held a dinner party in Jesus’ honor. Once again Martha served, but this time there was no complaint recorded and no rebuke from Jesus. Martha did her thing, while Mary once again sat at Jesus’ feet; this time anointing Him with expensive perfume. Each did what they were made to do in the way they were made to do it. No resentment. No jealousy. No competition. Just grateful love.

When we stay connected to the Spirit, He will lead us to the very best places at the very best time. We can trust that He’s also doing the same for others. The Spirit will perfectly prepare us for the most delightful opportunities at just the right time. Those opportunities will not only bless our souls, but will also bless the heart of God. With God life is always fair! 

Lord, forgive us when we impatiently run too far ahead of You or lazily lag too far behind. Give us clearer pictures of our callings. Help us accept them gratefully, and keep us in perfect rhythm with Your Spirit. Thank you for giving us different ways of expressing our love for You and those you’ve placed in our path. Help us to not compare ourselves with others or be envious of their blessings. May we never see our love for You as a duty, but always as the greatest delight. It’s not for our glory, but all for Yours.
In Jesus’ name.
Amen

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