Last Sunday we started our "Avoiding the Christmas Crash" message series by looking at the different ways that Mary and Martha responded to having Jesus in their home for dinner as seen in Luke 10. We found Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to His words. We found Martha distracted from Jesus by all of the preparations which resulted in her dip into self-pity.
We can easily compare this passage to Christmas today. Just as Jesus was the central guest of honor at the dinner in Mary and Martha's home, so He is also the central focus of Christmas. But how often do we blaze through the Christmas season so focused on all of the preparations and accomplishing our "to do" lists that we allow our busyness to distract us from the main focus which should be spending time listening to and worshipping Jesus.
This is such a vital lesson for us to learn that I have added a few more thoughts below in a "Q&A" format:
Is this story in Scripture teaching that preparations are unimportant? NO! With Jesus and His disciples coming over for dinner, someone still had to be concerned with the preparations. If not, there would not have been much of a meal. The problem in the passage is not that Martha was working on the preparations. The problem was that she allowed all of the preparations to distract her from the main focus - JESUS!
How do we know that Martha's focus on the preparations got out of balance? We know she had lost her focus when she dipped into a state of self-pity and scolded Mary for not helping her (when Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus). In fact, she even kind of scolded Jesus in the process with her words to Him, "Do you not care that my sister has left me alone to do all of the work?" When your focus on the preparations takes you into self-pity and causes you to scold others, chances are very good that your focus is out of balance.
Is this story showing Martha as a bad person? NO! Martha was preparing a meal for Jesus! That is hardly a bad thing. Martha is a great example in the Bible of someone who had a bent for hospitality. That's a good thing. Though I do not see hospitality as a spiritual gift in Scripture, the book of Romans and 3 John both teach the need for each of us to show hospitality to others. Again, what Martha was doing was a good thing. But as is the case with anything, too much of a focus on even that which is good can cause us to lose our focus on what the most important element is - JESUS!
How do we see that Martha grew in the process? In John 12:1-3, Jesus is again invited over to Mary and Martha's for dinner. This time Martha is again working in her love and strengths which is serving. However, there is a major difference this time. Her serving doesn't control her focus and plunge her into a state of self-pity as happened earlier. This time she serves but with the understanding of the importance of worshipping Jesus as well. Even in verse 3 when her sister, Mary, breaks open a full pound of expensive perfume and uses it to lavish her love on Jesus, Martha does not in any way complain (Judas does -but that is another story!).
Is there anything wrong with being a Martha? NO! God has wired a lot of people to be like Martha - servants who understand the importance of preparation and hospitality. That is a good thing! But if you are a "Martha" type - please be careful this holiday season that you don't become so focused on the preparations that you miss out on the most important part of the whole celebration - JESUS!