Martha glared at her sister as she took the plate of bread to the table. Mary never took her eyes off Jesus as He taught.
Martha stood in the doorway until the boiling water spilled over into the fire. She removed it with her metal pole. “I can’t believe she’s making me do all this work alone. Who does she think she is, one of His disciples?”
As she was mixing the sauce together her temper got the better of her. “We could be eating by now if I had some help in here!”
After not getting the expected response she slammed the bowl down and marched into the main room.
She walked up to Jesus and stopped Him in mid-sentence. “Lord, I’m doing my best to put on a fine meal for You.” She pointed at her sister. “Mary’s supposed to be helping me in the kitchen. Will You tell her to help me? She’ll obviously listen to You.”
“Martha, Martha,” Jesus reached up and brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes and tucked it into the hair pulled back from her face. His hand came down and cradled her cheek. “You’re stressed about a lot of things. We don’t need a big spread here, a simple meal will suffice. What I most desire is your devotion. Without that your offering means little to me. Mary has given me her whole heart from the time I walked in the door. That won’t be taken away from her.”
At first glance this short story appears as though just sitting and listening to Jesus is desired over doing any type of work. But, I don’t see that here. The heart attitude is the key we need to discover.
Martha’s attention wasn’t on giving her best for Jesus like she thought it was. You see, Jesus knew where her heart was. She was either over-doing it or attempting to show off to gain attention for herself.
So, how do we know when we’ve crossed either line? Good question, one we need to examine in detail. I can think of at least three questions we should ask to find the answer.
1. Why am I doing it? What is your motivation behind the task at hand? It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be teaching a Sunday school class or changing a diaper; preaching a sermon or directing traffic in the church parking lot; or, writing a blog post or driving a semi; whatever you’re doing has a motive behind it.
Your answer should have Jesus at the center of it. If it’s not being done to bring Him glory then your heart is in the wrong place. Take some serious time to check your reason.
2. Who are you doing it for? If you’re looking to receive some kind of recognition for your efforts then your motives are falling short. I’m not saying you should reject any awards or accolades. But, if they’re your reason for doing what you’re doing it will show through. Don’t promote yourself, leave that up to God.
If you’re not trying to lead others to the Kingdom then find out why. Selfishness is a difficult urge to over-come. Take a serious look in your motivation’s mirror.
3. Are you willing to do it alone? Are you so enthralled by the task at hand that you’ll carry it out even if nobody else shows up to help? I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to get help. Don’t burn yourself out by going it alone when others are waiting for you to ask for their assistance. But, don’t get upset if nobody comes to your aid.
If you’re feeling burnt out by the demands of what you’re doing then cut back or cut it out. You may be surprised at who steps in to take your place. Give your best to carry through.
These questions don’t apply to only church-related work. Your day job needs just as much scrutiny as anything else in life. Yes, you read that right. Jesus needs to be every bit as much of your focus during the week as He does on Sunday morning. Your service to God follows you into every aspect of your life.
Paul covers this in Colossians 3:17. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
I think this is where Martha fell short in Jesus’ estimation, her heart wasn’t focused on Him. She was more concerned with perfection than devotion. Her offering was to Jesus, but, her motives were elsewhere.
I’ve had to ask myself these questions on a regular basis. That verse comes to mind often at work. I heard a sermon when I was a teenager that guided that verse into my consciousness by leading it into this statement. “Whenever you do a job treat it as if Jesus Christ, Himself, asked you to do it.” There have been many times I’ve been kept from quitting when I put that into practice.
I pray my writing always focuses on this principle. I’m not in this for me. I wish there was some way I could write and still remain anonymous, but, that’s not the way it works. Part of the job requires me to make a name for myself at a certain level. Crossing that fine line would be so easy to get trapped into.
If you’d asked me what my life verse was before I was called to write I would have told you I have a whole book full of them. As soon as I knew God was behind my writing gift I quickly narrowed my life verse to John 3:30: “He must increase, I must decrease.”
The “He” in that verse is Jesus. As long as it appears that He’s getting more attention than me I’m doing my job right. If I fail in that, I’ve fallen short.
I don’t want to let The Boss down.
I’ll see you later. Wade