This article is written by a wife and mother trying to view her work in the right perspective.

Source: Faith in Focus, 2000. 2 pages.

Forgive Me Lord, I am a Martha

Have you ever read a story in Scripture and had sympathy for the 'villain' or 'vil­lainess' as the case may be? We always stand on the Lord's side when we read about the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Romans and all the other unbelievers etc. However, I just cannot help identify­ing with and feeling sympathy for Mar­tha, the sister of Lazarus and Mary eve­ry time I read that cameo of domestic life as portrayed in Luke 10:38-42. I have always struggled to understand why she was rebuked by the Lord, for surely she was endeavouring to serve Him. It is my nature too, to fuss about preparations, especially for guests. Are we not sup­posed to make people feel honoured and welcome and give them the best we can offer? Or was the Lord advocating a more casual approach to hospitality? Many today say "take me as you find me", of­fering store bought pizza, served in the hand, to hapless visitors. Is that the more Biblical way?

Me thinks not. I suspect that there were other matters that the Lord was really addressing. When I stand meta­phorically in Martha's shoes, a few crush­ing truths about human nature are ex­posed by the Lord's rather gentle rebuke. Yes, I have stood at the stove, hot and bothered, ambitiously attempting haute cuisine, the air thick with sighs of mar­tyrdom. How I long for recognition for my suffering. "Lord, don't You care that my children and yes, even my husband have left me to do all the work by myself? Tell them to help me!" – I sigh just that little bit louder. "Would you like some help dear?" asks a dangerously cheerful voice from the next room. "No thanks dear, (sigh) I'll manage! Somehow."

The truth is out! I want my reward here and now. No way is anyone else going to share my tawdry bit of (vain)glory! That little bit of suffering is mine, mine, mine!! and no one is going to take it away from me! Oops... is that what the Lord was really dealing with, a secret self-sufficien­cy, a sin cherished in the corner of my heart. A sin that threatens to rival the Lord's claim on my heart!

There is worse to be revealed yet. It is easy to love the Lord after dinner when the washing up is finished; when the clanging of pots is stilled and the smell of caught gravy has dissipated. Then, finally I can relax and listen to the Lord as His Word is read. Until that moment I just don't have time Lord, too many things worry and distract me. I tend to forget the 'big picture'. I must have the right environment in order to be able to devote myself to You. If You make de­mands on my time before then, well guess what, I blame the Lord! Lack of trust always causes that ugly habit of turning on the very One who has given and is doing all to save me. "Lord, don't You care..." Just like when the disciples were in their boat and the storm threat­ened them. The Saviour of their souls was right there but they cried "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" (Mark 4:38). Yes, it is easy to love the Lord on sunny days.

Is there more? Yep, I'm afraid so. This question has always puzzled me; why was Martha so concerned about prepa­rations, which doubtless included cook­ing meals, when the Man who had abun­dantly fed five thousand, alfresco, was sitting in her best parlour? I cannot, may not judge Martha but if it was me in the story, could this be further evidence of lack of trust or even arrogance? I con­fess that indeed it must be so. Yet how thankful I am that this glimpse inside this exotic, Eastern home is really just like the plain, little abode at 9 Benhar Street. The story is like a mirror, one that drives me to my knees! The Lord Jesus graciously chides us but also restores us. Not only can He supply us with Bread but He also teaches us that we are hungry.

Before I forget, what about Mary? What role does she play in the story, for she is certainly not just a prop. While I was feeling sorry for Martha, I suspect I was a tad annoyed at Mary. There she was, sitting at the Lord's feet, not help­ing, yet she was commended while Mar­tha was rebuked. Typical human nature, not only do I do wrong but I compound my sin by accusing others of wrong do­ing and am envious of the blessing they receive for doing right! No doubt there are many Marys in our congregations, doing what the Lord has called them to do, content to rest upon the Lord. Yet, because they do not conform to our pat­tern of Christian womanhood or fulfil our expectations of church work, such as joining this or that committee, we feel free to criticise them. We may even voice our criticism to the Lord as Martha did.

There is a further message to the Lord's very human, very frail followers and that is that we have His personal assurance that we will not lose the com­fort, security and safety He has afforded us. He tells Martha that "only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is bet­ter, and it will not be taken away from her." Since these words of assurance are recorded in Scripture, we may be sure that they are meant for all time and for all believers. And this includes Martha, for it was she who makes a wonderful profession of faith, recorded in the Gos­pel of John. "Yes, Lord," she told Him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." At that moment, when Lazarus had died, Martha was strong in the Lord while Mary wavered. At different times, in different circumstances, we can all be like Martha and like Mary. We can be 'blow hot, then blow cold', but the Lord is always steadfast in His love for us.

The thing that really strikes me about this profound little story is that Christ stoops down to reach us where we real­ly are. Great philosophers may wax lyri­cal about esoteric and ethereal matters but the Lord knows that our faith is lived out in our kitchens, laundries, bathrooms and bedrooms. The clanging of pots and pans, the aroma of boiling ham bones, the wailing of babies accompany our meditations. The story is so wonderfully domestic! The Lord reveals that He knows and shares our humanity, even knowing perfectly that enigmatic of crea­tures, the 'housewife'! What a Saviour!

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