Lesson Twelve | Devotion #6: Martha
Jill Osmon | Assistant to the Lead Pastor
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
In our culture, making a difference or serving others, is looked upon as the ultimate path in life, the ultimate sacrifice. We love a story about sacrifice and about serving others. This is the pay it forward generation. It is great to live in a world that highlights that, that sees the good in that, that acknowledges the sacrifice in that.
It is not just our world, but God wants us to serve. It is throughout the Bible:
Galatians 5:13 says, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
Hebrews 13:2 adds, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
1 Peter 4:9 continues the thought, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:10, “And having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.”
It is a good work to serve others; it is commanded! So why was Martha rebuked by Jesus for choosing the wrong thing when He was in her home? Luke 10:38-42 says, “Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’”
Martha loved serving others, so much so that it consumed her life. It became a distraction. John McArthur said in his commentary, “The highest priority for believers – the deep, transforming knowledge of God.” Mary was distracted with good things, but distracted nonetheless.
How many times have we distracted ourselves with good things, but we let that take us away from our highest priority? We can serve, we can love, and we can sacrifice, but it means nothing if it is not coming from a transforming knowledge of God. Our service and our love have to come from our deep, overwhelming love of God. We cannot love Him without knowing Him. We cannot leave one behind. We cannot serve without knowing God; we cannot know God and not serve. Martha left behind knowing God, wanting to work her way into His mercy and grace.
What we need is both, to know God and to serve others for Him. That was the reason for Jesus’ rebuke. We need both. So do not leave one behind!