Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Good Samaritan and Martha

Why is it that Jesus, immediately after extolling the Good Samaritan for his many deeds on behalf of the injured man, walks to Mary and Martha's house and through the course of the day, gently chides Martha for her many deeds?

Can't you relate to Martha? I can just imagine the scene:

Olive oil, spices, endless kneading of the bread. All to welcome the Rabbi Jesus.

A breathless messenger comes with the news: "He's coming, He'll be here soon." An admiring shake of his head. "Ladies, I wish you could have heard what He said to that smarty pants lawyer. Jesus told him a story about a guy getting beat up and a good Samaritan - what an oxymoron! - doing all these kind things to help the guy."

Martha might have heard that and thought to herself, "Well, I hope He notices all the good things I'm doing...Is that meat ever going to get tender?...Salt, we need more salt...Mary?!! Where is that deadbeat sister of mine!??"

And yet, when Jesus arrived and started to teach, Martha found herself getting madder and madder. Here she was working in the kitchen while her sister just sat there listening! When she finally got Jesus' attention, a distracted Martha vented. "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." (Luke 10:40) (Talk about a controlling-woman moment. How she must have trembled after His resurrection to think she had bossed the God of the Universe around her kitchen!)

I wonder if she was thinking about that Good Samaritan. She was doing so well, working so hard to serve Jesus. "Love your neighbor as yourself" might have been repeating itself in her mind. And Mary was like the Priest or the Levite, just completely ignoring all the tasks that begged to be done!

Can you imagine the defeated breath she took when Jesus gently answered, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)

Were there embarrassed tears? A half-cooked meal because Martha plunked herself down next to Mary in defeat? We do not know how it all unfolded.

But it's definitely got me to thinking...If I had heard the parable of the Good Samaritan helping an injured man, like Martha, I would have been encouraged to work harder, especially if I had the chance to serve the mysterious Man who told the story. And if He needed a little help noticing what a Good Samaritan I was, in contrast to my lazy-bum sister, I just might be willing to point it out. Playing the martyr just might suit for the moment.

Somehow, though, Jesus saw through it all. Of course He did. That was, and is, His specialty.

The difference between the Good Samaritan's deeds and Martha's deeds is the heart. One shows love to a neighbor out of the overflow of his wholehearted love for God (Luke 10:27) - a love that flows from His life through his towards an enemy - while the latter shows service to a neighbor with a distracted heart. Or no heart at all. Or perhaps a heart that wanted to be recognized for her good deeds. Wouldn't it have made her day if Jesus had said, "Like Martha here! She's a great example of the Good Samaritan, working so hard with little appreciation, while her sister sits here listening to me teach. Beautiful work, Martha!"?

This wasn't the only meal that Martha prepared for Jesus (John 12). She was not rebuked during that meal, so why was she given this gentle correction here? Because she was operating in her own strength.

Working hard is a wonderful, beautiful thing...when it is infused with His life "for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13) And apart from Him, we can do nothing of true value. (John 15:5)

I'm so thankful I serve a King who took the time to talk to His cook!

Resting in Him,

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