I was thinking and praying about my topic for this week, and one story just wouldn’t get out of my head—Mary and Martha. We all know it, it’s really simple, but sometimes it does us a world of good to go back to the basics.
So I started my usual round of studying, reading, praying, trying to find the shape of the idea, maybe a profound insight, a unique twist, something unexpected, something new. The weekend went by, and I still had only a handful of scattered notes and observations. Nothing was coming together.
Writers don’t like that, or at least I don’t. I get a bit frazzled and start to fidget, especially when I know there are a lot of people waiting for me to meet a deadline. My other articles so far have all been enjoyable to write, but this one was just not working. Yet I couldn’t get away from the topic. I was starting to get worried and upset, wondering if I would have to work harder than usual to make a good post that would really serve you.
And then all of a sudden it hit me. I was getting distracted and worried by all the work and service I had to do…
…while trying to write an article on Mary and Martha.
Yeah, sometimes it takes me a while.
Now, as Chesterton said, I’m the fool of this story, thank you very much, and I’ll have no one coming to topple me from the jester’s throne. But really, my own thick-headedness makes the point (better than any illustration I could have thought up) of just how easy it is at any moment for any one of us to get a case of Martha’s Disease.
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3, NASB).
Martha just wanted to serve—to serve Jesus, in fact. Serving is a good thing; serving Jesus is an even better thing. But that was the problem. It’s not the best thing. Strictly speaking, it’s not even a necessary thing. Only one thing is needed.
Mary found it. She found it at Jesus’ feet, just sitting, listening, and being. And even though someone close to her berated her for it with the best of intentions, nothing could take it away. Not then, not ever.
It would be a mistake to say “We need to be more like Mary.” The whole point of what Mary was like is letting go of sentences that begin “We need to.”
“One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
So, nothing fancy today. You don’t need me to tell you what you already know; you can just stop and remember it again. Let’s go back to the story we all know and spend some time listening to what Jesus has to say. Read it slowly and reflect and bask in it. Spend some time at Jesus’ feet. That’s all.
As Jesus and His disciples were going along, Jesus came to a village where there was a woman named Martha. She welcomed Him as a guest.
She had a sister named Mary, who came and sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what He said.
But Martha was distracted, pulled this way and that with all her serving.
She came up to Jesus and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister is leaving me to do all the serving alone? So tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” Jesus answered. “You’re worrying and bothering about so many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away.”
—Luke 10:38–42, paraphrased EP.
(Recommended hymn with that: Jesus, I Am Resting.)
Eric M. Pazdziora wishes he could practice what he preaches as much as he practices the piano. He writes music and words in Chicago with his wife Carrie, who guessed where this article was going before he got there. A forthcoming CD of his settings of hymns on grace, New Creation, can be found along with more writing at ericpazdziora.com.