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.” | Luke 10:40 (ESV)
You might have heard about the story of Martha and Mary in the gospels. They’re sisters from the town of Bethany who are dear friends of Jesus and the disciples (along with their brother Lazarus).
In one visit, Jesus comes to their house and Martha gets busy into serving. She rushes to the kitchen to pick up all the expensive china, prepare all the meals, wash all the dishes and so on. While this is happening, her sister Mary sits at the feet of Jesus to listen to him teach. Frustrated by the seeming injustice, Martha comes up to Jesus to give him and Mary a piece of her mind.
We’ve all been in the situation of Martha at some point. We’re busy serving, doing, working, earning, achieving while we look around and see some people are not in the same wavelength as us. Maybe you were frustrated with workmates who weren’t working with the same vigour on projects as you were. Or maybe you were leading a church ministry and not everyone was as “committed” as you were to mount a church event or a certain outreach. I’d like to share a few frustrations that hinder productivity we find from the story of Martha.
Often in our pursuit of being productive, we isolate ourselves from everyone else. Even alienate. But if we want to achieve anything worthwhile, we need to realise that we can’t do it on our own. Martha was alone in the kitchen because she felt things had to get done. Let’s remember that if productivity leads us to be alone and isolated, we miss the point. Productivity is a team activity. We’re better together.
The Bible tells us that Martha was “distracted with much serving.” There are so many things that distract us. One of them is too much serving. Too much work. That’s why rest and self-care are so vital in this day and age. It’s easy to get sucked into distractions- distractions of making more money, getting more sales, growing church attendance. When we are distracted by too much work, we actually become less productive and busier. This will lead to burnout.
It’s clear from Martha’s words that she was playing the “I’m this and she’s that” game. Comparison is a dangerous game, friends. When we become competitive in a way that glorifies the self over others, we’re falling for the trap of busyness. I make more money than he does. My small group is bigger than hers. Not everything is a contest. We don’t have to compare our results, calling or work to others. Let’s just focus on being the best that we can be.
One Thing is Necessary
We all want to be productive. But sometimes in our pursuit of doing more, we actually get stuck in these frustrations that hinder productivity. So easily we think that Martha was the productive one and Mary wasn’t. But we need to remember that productivity and busyness are two different things. What sets the two apart? One thing- knowing the goal.
Jesus makes the goal clear in verse 42 “but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Jesus came to visit Martha and Mary because he wanted to be with his friends. Not to eat the best dinner Martha could whip up. Not to be served with the most expensive china. He was there for relationship.
In your quest for productivity, do not miss sight of why you’re really doing what you’re doing. Do that and you will avoid the pit of busyness and burn out.