Have you ever been passionate about serving God, but then got caught up in the chaos of comparison?
Sometimes our intentions can be so well-placed, yet our execution becomes distracted, muddled, and tainted with our own jealousies and comparisons to what we think somebody else is or is not doing.
It’s a tactic of the enemy, for sure; yet one that we so easily fall prey to. Rather than focusing on the Lord and serving Him with the gifts and talents He’s given us, we get distracted, upset, and resentful over how someone else chooses to serve.
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”Luke 10:38-40a, NIV 84
I have written before about Martha’s good intentions but distraction of other responsibilities. But today I want to share how she also became distracted by what she viewed as Mary’s lack of desire to serve.
The Chaos of Comparison
Martha was probably the older sister, since she is listed first and she opened her home to Him. She had a gift for hospitality–for not only providing a place for Jesus to come and rest and hang out with friends, but also preparing a savory meal for Him.
Martha was a servant. Her heart was drawn to service, provision, creating a space of warmth, welcoming, and hospitality for Jesus. But when she realized Mary was just sitting at His feet, not offering to help, she became upset.
“She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!'”Luke 10:40b
Before we judge her too harshly, how many times have we said the same thing? How often have we looked around at those who just warm the pews and don’t want to help serve at church?
How many times have we judged those around us who seem content to sit at His feet but don’t have a desire to get their hands dirty, to get outside the doors of the church and meet the needs of those around us?
If we are honest, we have all wanted to run to Jesus, crying, “Tell them to help!”
Jesus’ response to Martha is interesting, because I feel like He was okay with her act of service. I think He appreciated all Martha’s hard work and her efforts to serve Him in that way.
But His gentle rebuke had more to do with helping Martha see that she had allowed her heart to become distracted from what was really important.
” ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.'”Luke 10:41-42
Mary had chosen what is better–not because sitting at His feet is the only thing needed. That doesn’t fit the context of the rest of the New Testament’s teaching on service (Matthew 25:35-40, 1 Peter 4:9-11, for example). She had chosen what is better because her heart was wholly focused on the Lord. She wasn’t distracted with comparison and worry over what someone else was doing.
Granted, we all must prioritize time with God. Our service will be useless if we are not first spending time in His presence and growing in Him. But the one thing needed is our whole hearts surrendered to Jesus. And that requires devotion that is not distracted by comparison.
God has given us great diversity in our giftings on purpose. Some of us are drawn more toward discipleship–learning and teaching. Some are more naturally bent toward service–giving and helping.
God will use us in the ways He called us, but it’s not our place to judge or worry about how someone else is serving.
“We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”Romans 12:6-8
When our focus is on Jesus, it won’t matter how others serve or don’t serve. With eyes on our Savior, we will be passionate for the things He has called us to do.
Mary and Martha both had a close friendship with Jesus. When their brother Lazarus died, Martha was the first to run out to greet Jesus. She expressed her complete faith in Him.
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believe in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’
‘Yes, Lord’ she told him, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’
And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. ‘The teacher is here,’ she said, ‘and is asking for you.'”John 11:25-28
Martha’s declaration of faith in Jesus is one of the most profound statements of belief in the New Testament, much like Peter’s statement of faith in Jesus as the Messiah (Matthew 16:16).
And her heart for her sister is seen as she tenderly tells her “He’s asking for you.”
When our focus is on who Jesus is and how we can best serve Him, God will use us in unimaginable ways. Let’s stop worrying about those who don’t appear to be serving Him, and let’s just do our best to serve well.
We are all one in Christ, so we bless Him most when we serve Him together as one body–called, anointed, diversified, yet unified for the glory of God.