How easy it is to allow other voices to drown out the voice of Jesus. Even serving our Savior can become such a competitor to loyalty to Jesus. All we have to do is look how this happened in the life of Martha, a woman whom Jesus dearly loved.
Luke 10:38-42 shows us the downward spiral of listening to other voices. It also show how Jesus helps us to identify and dismantle our own hidden idolatries.
- 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. 40But 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.”
Martha was a gracious, hospitable women who opened her home to Jesus. But she was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. Literally, she was distracted by much serving. Her distraction led her to become extremely anxious and irritable.
‘Periespato’ is the word in the original for “distracted.” It means to have one’s attention drawn away by the burden of one’s duties. To allow one’s attention to wander. A worldly attitude due to unbelief which can divert a person’s attention away from a proper regard and devotion to Christ.
Martha’s mind began to be pulled in every direction. What happens to her shows us the downward spiral and enslaving nature of our hidden sins of idolatry.
When we listen to other voices more than the voice of Jesus…
- We instinctively become self-absorbed, idolatrous people. Where is Martha’s focus in verse 40? (Notice the personal pronouns in verse 40 – Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” ). Though she refers to Jesus as Lord, she is primarily concerned to engage his assistance in her plans, not to learn from him his.
The human heart is an idol-making factory. Look at the context: Jesus distills the 613 commandments of the Old Testament down to two: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). In the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, Jesus paints a portrait of what it means to love your neighbor. In Luke 10:38-42, he paints a living portrait of what it means to love God. This story elucidates the meaning of the first commandment.
The first story places the emphasis upon the second tablet of the law. The second upon the first tablet of the law. How does the first tablet of the law begin: Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol… 5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I am the LORD your God.
Why is Martha worried, bothered, and distracted? Something else has taken title to Martha’s heart besides Jesus. Namely the applause of her friends and family, maintaining her reputation as the Martha Stewart of the 1st century, and her desire to be in control.
- We begin to think that God does not care (v.40). Martha’s problem is not the service she offers, but her distraction, worry and inward anxiety. Remember the disciples on the storm-tossed sea and what they said to Jesus: “Don’t you care that we are about to drown.” When we begin to doubt God’s control, we assert our own control of our out-of-control situation.
- We blame others. Notice Martha’s outward agitation and outburst of irritability. She finds fault with Mary.
- We become self-righteousness. “I am left alone to serve.” She engages in a pity party.
- We begin to manipulate God and others in our drivenness (v.40). Note Martha’s imperative in verse 40: Tell her Lord to help me.
- Jesus will not be tied to your strategies to control and manipulate others.
How have you seen this downward spiral work in your own life and relationships? Don’t you see how grievous it was to Jesus that for Martha He wasn’t enough?
Lord, give us grace to choose the better part of sitting at your feet listening to your Word.