The story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42 is a curious one. It reveals that the values of Jesus’ Kingdom are quite opposite to the values of the world. In our world those who accomplish are valued and praised. Martha was a doer; she accomplished; she served Jesus. She was also stressed out because she was doing it by herself and her sister wasn’t helping. Her life is a pretty accurate picture of the way life goes in our world. There are expectations galore. Expectations of ourselves and expectations of others. When our expectations are not met, we get frustrated. In Martha’s case, she went to Jesus and complained about her sister’s lack of assistance. How could Mary just sit around when there was so much to be done? Jesus’ response is other worldly. He commends Mary, not for doing nothing, but for her choosing to be with Jesus. Make no mistake, Jesus is not commending laziness; he is commending devotion to him. Martha was devoted to service, which in the world is good. Mary was devoted to Jesus, which in His Kingdom is even better.
The question is how do we put into practice the lesson that Jesus gave to Martha? There will be times in our life when our spirits crave time spent with Jesus. A loving devotion to him will move us to take time to seek out his presence and hear his voice. In those times, we are wise when we resist the temptation and call of the world to do, do and do more. What needs to be accomplished will be waiting for us after we’ve spent time focused on Jesus. I remember when we lived in Italy and I was stressed out about finishing a big project. My Italian friends gave me wise counsel. They encouraged me to relax, to keep working on the project a little each day, because my stress and frustration was not helping the project get done any faster. What I didn’t get done would not go anywhere, but would be waiting for me the next day, but not to stress out and wear myself out about it. There counsel was wise. I began to relax, the project was completed in due time. I learned a lesson in that experience, that the best way for me to decompress was to find ways to spend time with Jesus. For each of us that way might look differently. What is important for us is to learn in what ways we hear Jesus’ voice and rest.