from Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, pp 151-153
Most of us know well the famous Bible story in the tenth chapter of Luke about Mary and Martha. As Martha busily went about preparing food and making all things ready to serve Jesus, Mary sat quietly at Christ’s feet, joyfully listening to His words. Martha’s frustration level rose as she grumblingly went about the housework, resenting her sister’s apparent lack of consideration. I can picture Martha, banging jugs and plates in the kitchen, trying to give Mary a not-so-subtle hint that she needs help with the serving. Finally, Martha blows her top and stomps out to Jesus: “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that he help me” (Luke 10:40).
Now, if you’re a hardworking homemaker, you might just sympathize with Martha. There she is, working hard to serve Jesus in her home, and her lazy sister just sits around the whole time… right? But Jesus’ gentle rebuke is for Martha—not Mary: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41). Ouch.
Now, I’ve actually heard people use this passage to justify not doing housework or serving in the home. I’ve read that Jesus is once for all doing away with women’s roles in the home by demonstrating that it is more important to sit at His feet than to do housework. But that idea just won’t jive. After all, someone does have to do the housework! Those meals are not just going to magically prepare themselves, nor will the table set itself or the dishes clean themselves afterwards.
Serving is a fact of life. Jesus’ point here is not that no one should have been preparing a meal for Him or tending to household matters. As always, Jesus slices straight to the heart. Luke 10:40 says Martha was “distracted with much serving.” Instead of rejoicing in the ministry of love and service she was pouring out to the Lord, she resented the physical work and her sister’s lack of help. The “good part” of which Jesus spoke was worshiping and adoring Him—which is something we should do all day long without ceasing.
We can all be Mary, even if we don’t have an hour to sit down for “quiet time.” It’s all in our attitude toward the things that need to be done and the people we are serving. If we view our husbands, families, and guests as so many leeches crying, “Give, give!” then we are not going to develop a godly joy as we serve them. If we resent the fact that our husbands sit down to read with the children while we are preparing supper, we are being harpies, just like Martha. Choose the better part. Be Mary in the kitchen. Sing praises while you sweep up those never-ending crumbs. Whistle hymns while you wipe down the bathroom. Meditate upon Scripture while you are folding that third pile of laundry.
I feel greatly blessed to have been brought up in a home where my father urged excellent in our work as a way of glorifying God and where my mother joyfully tackled the tasks that lay before her. Whether organizing cabinets, planning school projects, upholstering furniture, planting a garden, or welcoming strangers, Mom always made every job seem like an adventure. When we complained, she just sang louder or turned up the music so we could march around in time as we did our chores. As a result, my parents’ home was fragrant with the aroma of servant-hearted, life-giving hospitality.
And let me just say it again: it wasn’t because we had beautiful furniture, just-right curtains, or spotless rooms. It was because Christ was Lord of that house, and our job was to serve Him without being bitter or acting put-upon. Be a Mary! When the laundry piles rise up in rebellion, the children don’t do their chores right, or the kitchen sink never seems to quite empty itself, rejoice! Choose the better part, crank up the praise, and lay down your life.