A Tale Of Two Sisters
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things.” vs. 41
I know for most of us the Olympics are in our rear view mirror and we’ve moved on to other things but I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the 2012 Summer Games. I’m sure most of you, if not all, watched some of the games. Personally, I love watching them; especially those sports that we don’t often get to see like swimming, gymnastics, the track and field games, and even some obscure ones like ping pong, diving, horse vaulting, trampoline, etc. I’m not really as high on the ones where there are professionals. I would rather see the others.
One thing that should have been a bit of sign to us is some of the names of the athletes. I found a few that maybe was reflective of how they performed. One was a South Korean pole vaulter. His name is Kim but it’s his last name that gives him problems. “Yoo Suk.” Unfortunately as he is performing everyone is yelling “yoo suk” “yoo suk.” J Another is a Bolivian sprinter who runs the hurdles. Believe it or not her name is Vania Stambolova (pronounce stumble over) and as luck would hav it, yes, she fell or stumbled over. Ouch!
I love to watch the medal couts and see how each country is doing and of course I pull for the U.S. but isn’t it fun when a country like Morocco or Kuwait, or Qatar win a medal. Sometimes those people have gone through incredible challenges to accomplish what they have done. There was one aspect of the games that stood out to me this time. It was the medal winners and their joy, or lack of, at winning, especially when it came to the silver medals.
According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, bronze medal winners are generally happier with their prizes than are silver medalists. Why? Bronze medalists are thrilled to win a medal at all, while silver medalists can’t stop thinking about how close they came to gold. Today in the Word, November, 1996, p. 19
Some silver medalists are just elated to win their medals. Others on the other hand, seem devastated and so upset. I remember 2 women; one in gymnastics and one in running who both won silver and it devastated them. The runner won silver in the last Olympics and was bound and determined to win gold this time. She trained four long years and still didn’t attain her goal. It was heart breaking for her. Yet I saw another runner who won silver and he was the happiest guy on earth. It’s all a matter of how you see it. Let’s look at two women who had a very different view of their circumstance.
Read Passage – Luke 10:38-42
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
A lot of the things we go through in life and the things that happen to us can affect us one way or another depending on our perspective; that is, how we look at a situation we are in. If we are in a bad mood, the tough things seem tougher. When we are in a good mood,, those tough things are more palatable. The opposite is true as well. When things go well and we are happy they seem a lot better and when we are in a good mood and things go wrong, they don’t seem quite as bad. Perspective is our a mental view or prospect of a situation.
Today, let’s look at these two women and their view of an encounter they have with Jesus. First, I would like to look at something that many times doesn’t get brought up in this story. It’s the idea of starting strong. Martha takes a lot of negative criticism for her part in this story. But notice what it says in verse 38:
“He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.” vs. 38
Martha opens up her home to Jesus. Jesus traveled from place to place and he relied on people to provide things for him, food, shelter, etc. Martha opens up her home. Martha starts strong. She has a good heart, she wants to do the right thing and she graciously opens her home.
Signs We’ve Lost Our Focus
Unfortunately for Martha, things go downhill from there. I think we learn a great deal from Martha. Like Martha, we deal with many things in our life and if we lose the focus of the bigger picture, we can lose our focus. There are some signs, more like actions that we resort to, that are in this story that can help us become aware that we are/have lost our focus and need to adjust our perspective.
- We Get Distracted
First, we get distracted. It uses that word in verse 40a:
“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” vs. 40a
It was a big deal to host Jesus. He was going place to place, performing miracles and healings, and crowds followed him. He also had an entourage of people that traveled with him. He had his 12 disciples; he had other disciples as well, and there were crowds that probably followed him too. We see that in other passages of Scripture. Then, when he would get to a place, people would come from all over to see him and hopefully be healed. All that being said, Martha, wanted to make sure everything was just right. The house picked up, the food prepared, etc. There was a lot to do and she seemed to be very conscientious about it and want it to be done well, so it took all her time and energy.
Ex. I can relate to this. On Sunday mornings I want our church to be just right. One thing I like to do is spend some time in prayer so when I get here, I try to spend the first 15 or so minutes walking the property and praying for the day. Inevitably I get distracted. Something is not done, or something comes up, maybe something is not working right, etc. and my goal is to be prepared to spend time with you. And I know sometimes you walk in and see me running around and doing all kinds of things but that is not the way I want it to be.
In Proverbs 4:26-27 it says:
“Watch your step,and the road will stretch out smooth before you.Look neither right nor left;leave evil in the dust.” Prov. 4:26-27 The Message
The idea here is that things distract us. We look to the right to the left and all that is in front of us can be forgotten or put on the back burner. Distractions can be a sign we have lost our focus.
- We Play the Blame Game
A second sign have may have lost our focus is that we begin blaming others for things. I call this playing the blame game. Notice Martha does that in verse 40b:
“She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister…” vs. 40b
I find it interesting that when people get into circumstances they feel uncomfortable or upset about that they resort to the blame game. Really, it’s an attempt to take to focus off yourself and put it onto someone else. We somehow feel better or more justified when we drag others into the circumstance.
Ex. Walking down the hall I walked into the door. I started thinking about every person it could be and who was to blame. You know what? I figured it out. It was me. How embarrassing.
In Hosea Ch. 4 God is speaking to the nation of Israel and he tells them in verse 4:
“But don’t look for someone to blame. No finger pointing!” Hosea 4:4 The Message
No blaming. So the solution is: we take responsibility for our actions. We are to be humble, stand up, and take responsibility. Satan wants us to be blamers. He appeals to our pride. The wrong kind of pride stops us from taking responsibility for our actions. But taking responsibility says that we trust God to take care of us, even when we make mistakes, when we fail, when things don go the way we think they should be.
- We Have a Victim Mentality
A third sign we might be losing our focus is that we have a victim mentality. Notice Martha’s victim mentality as verse 40 continues:
“..(she)has left me to do the work by myself?” vs. 40b
Martha feels alone and she feels that she trapped. We get into circumstances all the time where we feel alone and that we are the only ones going through something or that no one has it worse than we do. This is not abnormal. We all go through it. Think about what she does here. She goes to Jesus, God’s Son, and complains that Mary is paying too much attention to Him and she feels trapped or alone. The victim mentality is that feeling of hopelessness and isolation. It feels unfair and it feels as if we have no choice.
But we live in choice. Martha was in choice. She choose to blame and to play the role of the victim. She felt sorry for herself and she regretted her decision.
- We Worry, Worry, Worry
And the final sign we see in Martha is that she worries. Verse 41:
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things…” vs. 41
Worrying is mental distress. It’s the idea of constantly thinking and maybe over thinking what tis happening and running it over and over again in your head. In reality, worrying is taking it all on yourself and not fully trusting God. It’s not that you don’t trust God at all, it’s the idea we take the load on ourselves. The remedy is to turn it over to God. We do that through prayer, we do that through expressions of love and trust, we do that by allowing God to work in ways we never expected or never could have imagined. We do that by giving it to Him.
When I start worrying, I have to stop myself and realize that I haven’t fully trusted God with it. I have to change my perspective from me fixing to allowing God to work,. I stop asking why something is happening and start asking God to work and then asking what He wants me to learn through it.
What Is Really Important
So the bottom line is this, and Jesus drives this point home with Mary…what is really important? Look at verse 42:
“…but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” vs. 42
Mary’s perspective is…what is important is spending time with Jesus. It’s building relationships and especially our relationship with God. Let’s spend just a moment visualizing how we do that. Like Mary, we build in time for God.
Ways to build in time with God:
Prayer: build in moments of prayer; i.e. while waking, driving, when we get up, etc.
Music: make an effort to listen to music that draws you closer to God
His Word: Make an effort to read. i.e. if you read during commercial on TV you could read at least a chapter a day.
Time alone: take a walk, sit in your favorite chair, your garden, patio, etc.
Service: serve in the church, in a non-profit, to the less fortunate, etc.
One time someone told me: Show me someone’s check book ledger and I will show you what is important to them. There is some truth to that but that is just one aspect. We have the opportunity to build God into our life…or…we can lose focus, blame, play the victim, and worry.