“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
It is the final week of the online Bible Study of Stressed-Less Living by Tracie Miles. Each week we are given a key verse to think about and digest, and this verse hit me between the eyes, but perhaps for a different reason that normal. The verse is Luke 10:41-42, which says ‘“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”’ To set the scene, Jesus is traveling and is welcomed into the home of Martha, who is busily preparing everything to welcome her Lord. Her sister, however, sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to every word instead of helping with all the details of a perfect get together. Martha is annoyed by this and approaches Jesus about the fact Mary is not pulling her weight. Our key verses give Jesus’ response. Basically, he chastises Martha for being to busy to sit at the feet of the Lord.
This is an important take away for my life: never be too busy to sit at the feet of our Lord. However, it was a different lesson that hit me between the eyes this week: do not get caught up in what you perceive others are doing. I can just imagine Martha in this situation. She is busily preparing food and drink for her guests, trying to make sure everything is just so for Jesus and their other guests. This is no small task. At the same time, there is Mary. With each task, I can imagine Martha seething more and more, perhaps beginning to slam things around a bit for emphasis. She is probably pouting in her head about how Mary ALWAYS skips out of the hard work, and here she is serving everyone on her own. How dare she? How dare Jesus not say something to lift Martha’s condition up above that of Mary?
The truth was, Mary was exactly where she needed to be, sitting at the feet of Jesus, preparing herself for an earthly life without His physical presence. Jesus was giving Mary fuel to go on. Martha failed to see that, not because serving others is not a worthy task, but because the tasks became an end instead of a means of service.
Aren’t we all guilty of this from time to time. Perhaps you have a friend who is either making poor choices or being lazy and their life is just a train wreck of bad luck. You see all the poor choices and have advice, whether you voice it or not, as to how they SHOULD be doing things. Or perhaps it is that person you don’t really know, but you do not want to associate with because they are certainly not a good person, given their situation. Maybe it is something someone said to you and you cannot believe he would say something so insulting! Then, the truth hits you. Given the person’s situation, they have exhausted every resource and they are making the best choices available. Or you find out the rumors are not even close to truth. Or maybe the words a person said were intended with a completely different meaning.
Jesus had a lesson for us here, besides take time to sit at His feet. Do not judge the situation with your limited view. Ask questions, be loving, helpful. Do your best to find the truth of the situation, but do not allow your mind to run away with the situation. Martha had all these awful thoughts about her superiority in the situation. When the truth came out, not only did Mary make the best choice given her situation, but the best choice, period.
This is not to say that the truth is not sometimes bad, but all too often we judge another person’s life through the lens of our situation, which is likely not the same. So, how do we avoid false perceptions? I find there are three things that help me to avoid making this mistake.
1) Ask clarifying questions. Generally, the person will share information, and they have often already exhausted the options you had in mind. Be aware, though, silence does not mean they are avoiding the situation. Sometimes, their situation is so physically, mentally and spiritually exhausting, they are too tired to talk about it any further and are saving their energy to find a way out.
2) Do not automatically assume the worst. Especially in those situations where words are involved. I cannot even count how many times I have had people say something to me, my feelings are hurt, only to find out my interpretation was not what the person intended at all. Besides, when you constantly assume the worst about people, that is generally what you will get from them.
3) Approach God in prayer. Sit at God’s feet. Look to His Word for guidance. Approach each situation with a mind towards love and service. This does not mean you have to have an overly cheery, sometimes annoyingly happy personality where I am okay and you are okay. It does mean that we have to get dirty sometimes. Helping others is essential. We can only do this effectively if we are in God’s presence.
Finally, one of my favorite songs, that speaks to false perceptions.