Mary vs. Martha

This week our pastor Jon Chasteen preached a wonderful sermon about a topic we’ve heard preached many times. He however, preached it differently than most sermons on that topic.

It was wonderful and insightful and flowed with a theme the Holy Spirit has been threading through the last several sermons, being present in the moment.

We all know the story of Martha and Mary where Martha was busy and Mary was seemingly doing nothing, sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Luke 10:38-42

38 Now while they were on their way, it occurred that Jesus entered a certain village, and a woman named Martha received and welcomed Him into her house.

39 And she had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was listening to His teaching.

40 But Martha [overly occupied and too busy] was distracted with much serving; and she came up to Him and said, Lord, is it nothing to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me [to lend a hand and do her part along with me]!

41 But the Lord replied to her by saying, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;

42 There is need of only one or but a few things.Mary has chosen the good portion [that which is to her advantage], which shall not be taken away from her.

In every sermon I’ve heard preached on this, every preacher has given Martha at least a little credit, a little applaud for getting things done. After all, if we always sit at the feet of Jesus, we will never get anything done, or will we? 

Had Martha just sat down in the kitchen, she would have not been doing what Mary was. Please let me be clear – there is a huge difference in just sitting and sitting at the feet of Jesus!

I am a professed Mary. Always have been and always will be. So, let me speak from this perspective.

Decades ago I came across Acts 1:8 in the Amplified version of the bible and a lightbulb came on. I latched onto it and my life forever changed. Without knowing it, I suddenly understood why it was okay to be a Mary, fully, completely, in every way.

Acts 1:8,9

8 But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth.

9 And when He had said this, even as they were looking [at Him], He was caught up, and a cloud received and carried Him away out of their sight.

This verse is the last recorded thing that Jesus said to his disciples before he ascended to heaven. He instructed them to go wait for the Holy Spirit to come baptist them. 

He promised that this baptism would give them power (dynamin in the Greek) meaning ability, efficiency, and might. My eyes were opened to that fact and I anchored my faith in that verse. Not the only verse for sure, but certainly one! If you don’t believe it, it can’t work for you.

I’ve worked in multiple corporate jobs and run and managed many businesses in my life. I’ve been asked for years, how do I get so much done. To which the answer I had was never usually one most people wanted to hear.

Over two decades ago, I worked for a national corporation. I received a call one day from my manager who told me I was to speak at our company’s national recruiting conference and tell everyone why I had been so successful in recruiting with our external clients. 

This was not the recruiting of people we hired for our own company, at which I always exceeded my goals, but in working with other companies like Procter & Gamble, Novartis, and others, helping them recruit. I had a stellar reputation and success rate there.

When my manager asked me to speak at the conference, I promptly said no. We were close friends and both were Spirit filled Christians. I told him there was no way I could talk to a large secular group of people and tell them why I was so successful and not tell them the real reason.

After much back and forth, I of course did the conference. My manager simply left me with, “Just tell them the things that you do.” It was the best I had to offer in such a restricted environment.

I gave the presentation. I showed them what I did. How I charted my steps, the file system I had created, and so much more.

At the end, many of my colleagues came up to me and said, “It’s just too much work.” I was surprised, because I never felt the effort. Yes, I did work, but the work seemed effortless. 

I spent a ton of time doing nothing. I also spent a ton of time alone at Jesus feet. In fact this job was one in which I was doing my work alone most of the time. During that time, I was always acutely aware of the presence of Jesus right there with me, leading me and guiding me.

I was constantly talking to him as I worked, keeping an ear leaned toward the Holy Spirit. It was he who gave me the way to do what I did. Even though in the natural it appeared to be a lot of work, with the Holy Spirit efficiency, it seemed very little to me.

That ‘very little’ work resulted in letters from the top praising my efforts. I have a notebook where I have kept every letter, including the one from the head of the human resources department at Procter & Gamble praising my efforts and telling my company that they should clone everything I am doing.

Fast forward a couple of decades. I currently handle three businesses, more or less. All small, yet equally challenging. Last year I wrote and published three novels. When the Holy Spirit said it was time to write, I wrote and that was the result.

It was while I was spending time at the feet of Jesus and being with him, that I so clearly heard, “It’s time to write.” And with his timing came his dynamin (ability, efficiency, and might) to write, publish, and market three novels in one year.

I’ve had countless people amazed at that accomplishment. But I am here to tell you, it really seemed effortless to me. I again, spent tons of time, doing nothing. I also spent tons of time, at the feet of Jesus.

How can this be? I know all you self-professed Martha’s out there want to know. All of you Martha’s who are so pumped by all the work you do and are constantly doing, almost to the brink of pride.

Let me tell, you how. It is simply the difference between a headwind and a tailwind. Doing anything without the efficiency received by sitting at the feet of Jesus results in a headwind. It will always be harder for you and you will always accomplish less, no matter how hard you try.

I much prefer the tailwind. I dare say that Mary having sat at Jesus feet could have gotten up afterwards and completed dinner in a fraction of the time, just as Jesus fed the five thousand, over Martha’s lengthy hard work.

My husband is always amazed at how quickly I can get a meal together. Others are often amazed at everything else that I do. But, IT IS NOT ME. It is the efficiency, ability, and might of the Holy Spirit.

Let me challenge you that many out there who appear to be Martha’s are actually Mary’s who sit at the feet of Jesus then are production powerhouses. Being a Mary and knowing who is really responsible, helps keep me from the temptation of pride. 

I have no doubt that I am just the vessel, and were it not for the power of the Holy Spirit, I would have just been sitting and accomplishing nothing.

I guard my time at the feet of Jesus. I won’t give it up. I don’t do early morning things with friends or colleagues. I always graciously decline, unless it is absolutely necessary. I understand the worth and value of that time and I refuse to give it up. Plus, I enjoy it way too much.

It still feels foreign to me when people marvel at all that I get done and how it makes them feel so inadequate. But everyone has access to this very same efficiency, ability, and might.

We’ve not even talked about that word ability specifically in the definition. That’s another thing that people are often commenting about, is my ability. But, IT IS NOT ME. It is the ability that comes from sitting at Jesus feet.

Mary could do in a fraction of the time what it took Martha endless amounts of time to do. I know, I’m a Mary.

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