To Do or Not to Do

I gather flotsam into a pile, and hurry to drop them in my bedroom. Back to the kitchen, a stray glass waits for the dishwasher and the floor begs another sweep. The clock taps its fingers, ticking down the minutes until company arrives.

The doorbell rings.

“Come in, come in. So good to see you. Thank you for coming.”

I leave the ladies to visit while I tend to last minute details. Potatoes scent the air, and remind me to transfer sour cream to a pottery bowl and move the salad to the table. Did I replace the bathroom hand towel with a fresh one?

Eventually we load our plates and sit around the oval table, alternately talking and munching. 

“Would anyone like more chicken salad or can I freshen your drink?” I leave the table for the kitchen, tending to desires and tidying as I go.

Finally, we relax in the living room, only I’m not relaxed. My arms are crossed in front of me, but I don’t know what to do with my hands. I cross my legs, then uncross them. Is everyone enjoying themselves? What can I say to keep the conversation going? Am I talking too much? I am tempted to creep into the kitchen and load the plates into the dishwasher and package leftover food. 

As I close the door behind the last guest, my husband walks in, “Did you have a good time?”

I hope they had a good time. Did I? I don’t know. I recall only snippets of conversation. Why could I not relax and enjoy my guests? I am Martha whose siblings were Mary and Lazarus. 

 “Now as they went on their way, (Jesus) entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.Luke 10:38-4

I imagine Martha is excited that Jesus’ enters her house. Maybe she reacts as I do.

“Have a seat, Master. May I get you something to drink?”

“Thank you, I would love a drink. Anything will do,” Jesus replies.

“She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.” 

I envision Martha rushing to the kitchen to pour a drink, then searching the cupboard for food. Crumbs litter the floor, and cooking a dish will take hours. In her panic, she sees her sister sitting on the floor gazing at Jesus, consumed with His words.

“But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’”


“But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, …’” Luke 10:38

I hear the quietness of Jesus’ voice. He repeats her name, “Martha. Martha.” I can hear Him speak, not with exasperation but with tenderness. He calls her by name and knows her angst and sinful bent, and waits until she meets His eyes. He tells her the painful truth bathed in understanding love.

“‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:38-42  

Jesus’ answer reveals Martha’s problem. She has skewed her priorities, concentrating on preparing a delicious meal, while neglecting her Lord, for whom she sets the table. Perhaps He reveals a deeper problem in the reason she feverishly works. Does she try to please Jesus to be worthy of His love, in other words, to earn His love? Does she worry Jesus loves Mary and not her?

Wanting to please others for a return is not a form of love. This pleasing resents or is hurt when expectations are not met. This kind of pleasing comes out of desire for affirmation. When love moves us to please, however, we don’t look for an exchange. We give solely for the benefit of the other. Love also receives joyfully without trying to earn the gift.

I used to be a Mary, enraptured by Jesus, elated that He noticed me and awed that He loved me as He does. When did I become Martha? I probably rose from Jesus’ feet and rushed to the kitchen when I became a wife, mother and employee. I was  responsible for meals, timely transportation, and projects. As hostess, Martha also needed to tend to her guests, but at some point, Martha and I become more concerned with Jesus’ being pleased with us instead of wowed and wooed by His presence.

I wonder what Martha chooses to do after Jesus confronts her. Does she return to the kitchen burning with pride and hurt, or does she let go of duties to bask in His presence, dropping to the floor at Jesus’ feet next to her sister?

What do I do, learning that I am worried about lesser things and distracted from better things? I can hear Jesus say my name also, Suzy, Suzy. His tone is kind and knowing. How do I react to His gentle words which crack my protective shell? I struggle to manage my treacherous motives. When I invited guests for dinner, the prospect excited me, but I devolved into busyness. After they left, emptiness remained. 

I must recognize that I am loved and should receive it without payment, and I must love others without expecting payment. Guests are great things, and my serving does not need so much attention, especially if my motives are needy. If I set tasks aside and enjoy my company, whether it’s Jesus or friends, we’re all more likely to enjoy each other’s presence.

5 thoughts on “To Do or Not to Do”

  1. Thanks for sharing, Suzy. I’m sure we can all identify with being Marthas for some or large parts of our lives! Thank you for also pointing out that certain life seasons are by nature more heavily task-oriented than others which easily can make our mentality tilt toward service over adoration. It does seem, for me, as I get older that it’s easier to identify with Mary without feeling guilty about it. Do you think the church can inadvertently foster a Martha mentality? Am I comfortable being that person who isn’t committed to everything? Do you think we can unconsciously feel that to be in God’s will we have to serve as much as our calendars allow? In the past, I have been that person, and it’s still a temptation at times. When I am serving, how do I mentally and spiritually get past the worries and distractions of pleasing people and rest in the knowledge that God is the only audience that matters? Thanks for writing about this topic.

    1. LeeAnn you bring up some good questions, which I debate in my mind also. Much of the New Testament, and Jesus Himself, teaches us to do this and don’t do that. Sorting out those instructions with correct motivations is hard for me even at my stage of life. He often calls us to do things which we’d rather not do but not necessarily! It’s tricky.

  2. This is good for thought my sister. The challenge is real for all of us. Thank you for once again sharing in a way that uplifts but addresses out true need.

  3. I, too, was a Martha. I think all of us were & to a certain point, still may be. As I have aged, I have come to realize what is really important. Going to bible studies, Sunday School, attending church and being around sisters like you, has changed me into more of a Mary. I have lunch with ladies from church and thoroughly enjoy them. Instead of inviting them to my home, we go out to lunch and this way we are not distracted from the wonderful fellowship we have together and no one is busy trying to make sure that everything is done to please all of them. My quiet time, in the mornings, are spent with the Lord & I do my very best to not let anything interfere with that time. When I am finished visiting with the Lord, then I get busy with all that I want to accomplish for the day. I have learned to prioritize things in my life & God & my time with Him always comes first. That is when I become Mary. I make sure that He is a huge part of my day too, yet I still manage to get things done. He helps me.

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