I have addressed the story of Mary and Martha before, see it here One Thing.., today however, I’m taking another perspective. We are going deeper. Someone say ‘deeper’. Okay, now I am sure that we are all here. 🙂
First mention we have of Mary and Martha of Bethany and their brother Lazarus is in Luke 10.The bible records they were Jesus’ friends and he was visiting their home. Whilst Martha was busy making sure supper was ready, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to him and learning about him.
We often flip this story when we share about ‘ONE THING being needful,’ and more often than not, people come away thinking that relationship/intimacy with Christ such as Mary had is mutually exclusive to service which Martha showed.
Now, truly, does one ever have guests and not provide for their welfare? Was Jesus trying to say that what Martha did wasn’t important?
I don’t think so.
Let’s bring it home a little. Think about your every day relationships with people. You are better able to serve and meet their needs when you ‘know’ them. For example, Tayo is my colleague, she is allergic to nuts, she likes her water tepid, she hates coffee, she doesn’t like hot food…. I may never have served her any of those but by reason of the fact that I have been with her for hours on end, I know what she likes and as our friendship develops, an opportunity will arise and I will be able to offer exactly what she likes. Many times infact, we end up serving those we love, without having to think long upon the matter. Our service naturally flows out of intimacy, whether it is our primary love language or not but more than anything, our intimacy arms us with information/revelation to serve right.
The Bible speaks about Moses in Psalm 103:7 saying, God made known His ‘ways’ to Moses and His acts to Israel. His ways there refer to a revelation of Him, His person, built upon intimacy. It also means that like Israel, it is very possible to enjoy God’s acts without knowing Him. Hmm…
Continuing with the story of Mary and Martha, Jesus scolds Martha for being worried about many things and ignoring that one thing that is important. Jesus speaks here of Martha failing to prioritize intimacy over service. Overtime I have found that not having a relationship can make your service seem irrelevant, displaying your ignorance over what your lover really wants. We could be so busy serving and yet because our relationship is deficient, we are not meeting their needs.
For some of us, our journey moves from relationship to service. We first spend quality time at his feet, such that eventually when, like Mary of Bethany, we get to serve, our service is so relevant, seeing it is borne out of revelation, and this service becomes indicative of our walk; more like we are working out our walk. Mary finally anointed Jesus’ feet with very expensive spikenard in John 12. She understood that service was a natural progression of relationship. How amazing her service was when it finally came. How deep her understanding of the Master, from the place of intimacy and revelation. And oh,the joy when finally out of relationship with God, we offer heartfelt service in total obedience.
However, like Martha, some of us begin with service. Service is fantastic and should not be berated. The idea however is not to stay there, rather it is to make our way towards intimacy with God, and then and only then can we truly maximise service for what it is. Service is not a lesser ministry; service, when it flows out of intimacy, is very powerful. Sometimes, when we put service ahead of relationship, it becomes religion. We begin to work for God instead of walking with God. We begin to dry out and, like Martha, complain because we feel so discontent from the lack of commendation and help. I am not sure what capacity you are serving in, maybe music or ushering, or some of the behind the scene roles like Children’s church or operations. Whatever it is, are you a Mary or a Martha?
The thought of a place of service without relationship keeps me sober. It reminds me of Jesus saying to those miracle workers in Matt.7:22, ‘I know you not’. Does it mean they were doing miracles and serving without a relationship with God? They were blessing others and leaving people with testimonies and yet Jesus did not know them?
And the sad thing is, on the outside, people may not be able to tell. They may even hail Martha as the faithful caring sister,even though her soul is in tatters and needs the refreshing water that Jesus gives. This is the reason I sometimes slow down and check, check, and check again. Am I bogged down with much serving? How am I serving? Is it driven by relationship and revelation or just work? How is Christ in me?
Today, if we are too busy to build and maintain a relationship with God, we are busier than God intended. Intimacy over service, always.
At the end of the day, it comes down to the ONE THING: relationship! KNOWING GOD…and then, serving Him.
Image Credits: Joshua Nelson, TPH and Femi Flueri.