A Tale of Two Hearts – Luke 10:38-42
Have you ever felt like something feels off in your heart during the Christmas season?I can’t seem to put my finger on it. I think it starts around the middle of November. People start talking about Black Friday, which oddly seems to start earlier and earlier nowadays. A fear that I am missing out on something starts to creep in. The next thing I know, I am swirling around a tsunami, tossed around like a sock in a dryer of gifts, cards, giftcards, menus, decorations, shopping, door busters and blowouts, whining kids, family parties, extended family parties and friend parties, eating all the time, end of the year giving, all added to the normal frantic running around of life and pastoring a family and church and paying my mortgage. So I find myself falling into this perpetual irritability, anxiety and feeling lazy and weary at the same time as all these good things turn into bad things because of my attitude. All this as Paul McCartney is singing on my radio:
The party’s on
The feeling’s here
That only comes
This time of year
Simply having a wonderful Christmas time
Simply having a wonderful Christmas time
A wonderful Christmas time. Right. Am I missing something? I think I am missing the obvious. Holidays reveal a lot about our soul. So I think in the hustle and bustle of the season, we need to recalibrate and refocus our hearts on the One, the Light of the World, who quietly and silently burst into our messiness and darkness, coming to redeem us. We’re going to look at two hearts meeting Jesus in the normal day-to-day events of life and I felt this is a great lesson for me and for all of us in this season. The title of the message, “A Tale of Two Hearts.” First let’s look at:
- The Downward Spiral of Disordered Love (vv.38-40)
Let’s set the scene. This is a unique story to Luke. Though Jesus said that He had no place to lay His head and most of the time this was true, it seems like He loved hanging out at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany. He’s there again in John 12.
So look what happens. Thirteen men arrive at this home in Bethany. Imagine 13 men showing up at your door? How would you feel? In Luke 10:38, a woman named Martha is mentioned as the owner of this home. We do not know if this was because she was perhaps a widow or if it is because she was the older sister or both. Nevertheless, she opens the door and is so excited to see Jesus. The word used for “welcome” means “to accept the presence of a person with friendliness—‘to welcome, to receive, to accept, to have as a guest.”
So far so good. What a privilege to have Jesus in your house! But like good hosts, when someone comes over, you want to be hospitable right? I think both of these women loved Jesus. Mary is quick to take Jesus’ sandals and washes his feet. This is customary if you walked into a home. It would be rude if you did not do that. As Mary does that, Martha runs to the kitchen to get a meal ready. Jesus and His disciples are going to Jerusalem and nothing but the best for Jesus! She thinks. Jesus begins speaking to Mary about the recent ministry and the Kingdom. As she finishes washing His feet, (possibly) she lays aside the basin of water and the washrag, but continues to sit there at His feet, just captivated. Then all of a sudden we see Martha stomping out of the kitchen. She’s furious. What happened?
The church father Augustine would say, “All of sin is disordered love.” It is not that we want the wrong things. It is that we want them with the wrong amount and in the wrong order. This is idolatry. As a result, our priorities are out of order. So we might love our recreation, our computer, etc. more than our work and our work more than our family and our family or spouse more than God, etc. God’s order has beauty. Disorder causes ugliness. It mars His beauty.
So this is not about a personality issue. This is not about Martha being an extrovert and Mary being an introvert and how Jesus loves introverts right?So we must be careful here. Some have criticized and unfairly put down Martha saying we must be a worshipper like Mary and not a worker like Martha. I do not think that is what is going on here. We need Marthas in our life. If there were no Marthas, nothing would ever get done! I think both loved the Lord. The issue is about misplaced priorities and disordered love. How did she get there? Here is what I see as the down spiral of disordered love:
- Misplaced Identity
This is Martha’s house for whatever reason. She’s decided she knows what’s best for Jesus. She has made up her mind as to what Jesus needs and what Mary needs to do and what she needs to do. Author Joanna Weaver agrees when she says, “What a woman! She opens her home to a band of thirteen hungry men, possibly more. What a hostess!…She is the original Martha Stewart…and Israel’s answer to Betty Crocker. Or at least that’s the way I imagine her. She’s the Queen of the Kitchen—and the rest of the house as well.”
She’s the boss here. She’s thinking like an owner, not as a manager or steward. A manager may be the boss, until the owner shows up right? You shut up. Let Jesus decide what He wants. What does He want from me right now? What would delight Him? Martha says, “I gotta serve, serve, serve. Get busy living or get busy dying.”
Her identity is wrapped up in what she must do for Christ. Not whose she is in Christ.I feel like when one has the gift of hospitality, like other gifts, strengths become weaknesses as well. You love having people and creating space for people to feel at home, but then if you lose focus, you can become obsessive and idolatrous and feel pressure to go over the top. You love people saying, “I love this home! You are a great host! This food is amazing!” And pretty soon, you are not doing it for the Lord, but for yourself. One commentator says, “Martha’s ‘doing,’…is…rooted…in her anxiety as a host rather than in dispositions transformed by an encounter with the word.
Good intentions.Not a bad heart at all initally, but when your foundation of your Christianity…who you are is what you must do for Christ and not what He’s done to make you who you are, you are beginning down a terrible downhill slide. Her identity is in what she has to do for Jesus.
Look at Luke 11. Right after this story, Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray. When you pray, Jesus says, pray: “Father.” See? He doesn’t say, “O great Employer.” Calling Him Father means you are a child. That must be the posture of your heart. Mary looks like a child here. Look at her posture. Be at someone’s feet is to be under their authority, under their care and love. But when you lose that, you end up:
- Distracted and Irritable
We pick up the story again in Luke 10:40. Martha is frantic. Luke says she was “distracted” a word meaning “to be pulled or dragged away.” Have you ever felt like you were being pulled in so many directions? Martha also wanted to hear Jesus, but the tyranny of the urgent prevented her from doing this.
As pastor Darrin Patrick says, “There is a difference between simply being busy and being hurried. Being busy is about the things you have to do. Being hurried is the spiritual, mental, and emotional state that you are in when trying to do the things you have to do. You can be busy without being hurried.”
I can imagine Martha. This is the nature of Eastern hospitality as well. I remember visiting my relatives in India a couple of years ago. As soon as you arrive, they run into the kitchen. As you scream “We are just passing through, no need to cook anything,” you hear a reply crying from the kitchen, “Don’t worry! It’s just a small snack! It’ll take 2 seconds.” 45 minutes later, here comes a five-course meal!
So I can imagine Martha here. She is stirring a bowl in one hand and cracking eggs with another making sure nothing is spilled. “Jesus is here and I need to get the best for Him. Something that will last Him and the guys all the way to Jerusalem,” she thinks to herself again and again. She begins to empty the cupboards, taking out the best utensils and plates. But then it occurs to her, “What if Jesus stays the night? Are the sheets clean? Are the towels folded?” So she runs to check on that and then she it hits her. “Where’s Mary?” She peeks over and sees Mary sitting there. This was the same position she had left her in before she went to the kitchen!
Those of you who had siblings, have you ever gotten so angry you are doing all the work and chores around the house while your brother or sister is watching television or talking on the phone? Or perhaps you were the one sitting around? You can kind of sense some sibling tension going on here.
The pot on the stove was not the only thing boiling that day. Martha is fuming. Off she goes storming out of the kitchen. One of the telltale signs that we are going down a deadly path is when we are irritable with others. You start talking about all that you are doing for the Lord and how incompetent and useless others are.She’s irritable with incompetent people. She’s irritable with people who are not with the program. She’s irritable with people who are getting in the way or not helping her to get her life the way her life has to be. She says, “Tell her to help me.” Our eyes get off the Lord and on to people.This leads to us:
- c) Doubting God
Her words are sharp and it is cutting at two people like a machete. First, at the Lord. She says, “Don’t you care?” Wow! What an indictment.
Second to Mary, to whom I am sure she is avoiding all eye contact with as she says “Tell my sister…” Notice she does not mention her name at all. She is accusing Jesus of not caring and she is accusing Mary of laziness and insensitivity. Notice this demanding spirit that comes out of her, “Tell her to help me!” There is always self-righteousness with irritability. If so-and-so wasn’t so dumb (meaning I am smarter)…why did he do that (meaning I wouldn’t do that)…etc.
Again, she’s not doing this for the Lord. Notice the repetition of the word “me.” Kierkegaard offers valuable insight here. There is such a thing as self-love that can appear in the guise of other-centered love and that finds its way into Christian service.
Imagine the room at this point. Everyone is quiet and feeling very awkward I bet! Mary has her face down, flushed with embarrassment. Jesus looks up at Martha and sees her hair (and her heart) beginning to unravel and flour on her cheeks.
This is not a surprising statement from Martha, because once disordered love drives us, distraction fills our lives and we start to feel like we are being dragged away with a ball and a chain, of irritability and a demanding spirit and doubting God are always right behind. But we may have all felt the loneliness, the frustration, the left-out-ness and resentment she experienced in the kitchen that Bethany afternoon—doing all that work for others when no one seems to notice and no one sees to care.Joy and resentment cannot abide in the same heart.
Martha’s statement is a prayer. Do this Lord! And the Lord doesn’t answer it. He doesn’t say, “So sorry Martha—terribly insensitive of us. Come on, Mary! Come on, guys, let’s all pitch in and give Martha a hand”? No, that would be a Band-Aid to the real problem, which was in her heart. Later in Luke 11:12 says a good father will not give you a scorpion, meaning nothing that will hurt you. To keep feeding her hurriedness that she brought on herself in the name of Christ? That would be a scorpion. He’s too good to do that to her.
Jesus says the issue is not Martha in the kitchen. The issue is Martha’s heart in the kitchen. Her attitude was like milk left out on the counter that has turned from sweet to sour. In an effort to do service for the Lord, she lost connection with the Lord. She became burdened, worked up and distracted over a lot of things. As she worked for the Lord, her work became more important than the Lord Himself and Satan turns the Lord into an enemy, making you doubt His care.
Is this happening right now as we prepare for Christmas? Is your love disordered? This passage and message is the Lord calling you back to Himself! Lastly:
- The Lord’s Reordering of our Disordered Love
The Lord does not the answer the prayers Martha was expecting. Now that I’ve been a dad for a few years, if one of my daughters was complaining about the other like this, I would easily be like, “You know what. You both need to figure this out. Martha, go take a walk. Walk away. Calm down. I don’t care? Who made you? I don’t have to eat here. I can multiply 5 loves and 2 fish into 5,000. Let’s get out of here guys.” Me, I don’t want to be inconvenienced. But look at Jesus here. He’s a good Father. How does He reorder our love for Him?
- a) Shows us His love
Jesus tells us what the real issue is in Luke 10:41. He answers, “Martha, Martha…” Be careful when the Lord has to say your name twice! Actually, He is very tender and affectionate here. This is the same as Jesus saying, “O Jerusalem! Jerusalem!” (Luke 13:34) Or David crying, “O my son Absalom! My son Absalom!”(2 Sam. 18:33).Doubling in Scripture is often a cry of magnified intensity. Here it is a cry of magnified, intenselove and compassion.He is corrective, but He is also consoling. He brings the point gently home. What a tender Savior we have! He does not treat us as our sins deserve. He’s reordering her love by showing her of His love.
- Uncoversour smaller loves
I imagine Martha as a puppet with 30 strings, each representing a goal or expectation she put on herself. Each string has pulled on her, stretching her apart and about to tear her apart. When Jesus says, “you are anxious and troubled about many things,” He is pulling up each string—in other words, He looks at her emotions as the fruit and in pulling them up, you can see underneath them. He exposes are the idols, the roots. “You don’t need all of these attachments in your heart today.” She decided she won’t be happy unless she meets the 30 goals she set for herself. For her, I can only be happy if…my sister works the way I want her to, the meals are like this, my home is like that…etc. There are idols underneath her flurry of activity.
For example, when someone asks me how things are going to say, “Good…you know, busy.” Sometimes it’s totally honest, but other times, I don’t know if it is a way to force myself to believe that I am only important if I am busy.
Eugene Peterson, a long time pastor, says this about himself: “I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself-and to all who will notice-that I am important. If I go into a doctor’s office and find there’s no one waiting, and see through a half-open door the doctor reading a book, I wonder if he’s any good. A good doctor will have people lined up waiting to see him; a good doctor will not have time to read a book, even if it’s a very good book. Although I grumble about waiting my turn in a busy doctor’s office, I am also impressed with his importance.
Such experiences affect me. I live in a society in which crowded schedules and harassed conditions are evidence of importance. I want to be important, so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions. When others notice, they acknowledge my significance and my vanity is fed. The busier I am, the more important I am.”
Convicting! Jesus says as He looks at the bottom of all these strings: “You gave these to yourself. You don’t need all 30 things today. Let me cut the attachments and give you what your heart truly needs and is necessary.” What idols are clinging at the bottom of your emotions from your hurried heart?
- c) Refocuses our priorities
Jesus says, “One thing is necessary.” Reorder your love by eliminating the distractions. When you do that, the other things fill fall in their rightful place. I hate it when halfway through buttoning my shirt, I realize I didn’t button the first button correctly. Once you button the first button, the rest will follow in order. Same is true spiritually!
As I was praying about removing distractions, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t checked my email in three whole minutes. So I checked my email and I got an email about how somebody commented on a picture of me on facebook. That must be so important right? So I went to facebook and after 30 minutes I realized I was looking through pictures of a friend’s friend’s cousin’s neighbor’s barbecue in Florida somewhere. I was wondering, “How did I ever get here?” So I was frustrated with myself and decided to get off facebook, but then I saw that someone posted a really important quiz…which transformer am I? That’s really important and I was dying to figure that out so I took it only to find that I wasn’t any transformer! Stink! Now it’s been a long time since I checked my email again, so I went back to my email again and then my phone vibrated with a text message. Wait, what was I doing before this? Oh yeah, I was praying about focusing my heart on the Lord. Yeah, God, I think I’m doing a good job.
Humor aside, I think the internet is a huge distraction and addiction that I think intoxicates us from hearing what God has for us. Joshua Harris once closed his message with his version of Prov. 6:10-11 which says, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come upon you like a robber…” He said those verses in today’s context might say, “A little facebook, a little twitter, a little folding of the hands to my smart-phone and spiritual poverty will come upon you like a robber.”
I put my phone on silent to make sure it doesn’t seduce me when I am with the Lord.I am working on checking social media once or at most, twice a day. Email is harder for me. I keep imagining myself what it would be like if I checked my physical mail like I do my email. It makes sense if you are waiting for an important letter, check or package, but every single day for the whole year?
- d) Calls us to make time to fill your soul
Jesus says in Luke 10:42 that “one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” What He is saying is that, “Martha, a microwave dinner would be fine. You are struggling over bread that perishes. Mary is feasting on bread that will fill her soul and not be taken away from her.” What is cooking in the kitchen will be gone in minutes, Martha, but what is being prepared here will go on forever! I want your company more than your service. And really the foundation for any service for Christ is a listening heart with Christ. Martha, don’t try to serve me, let me serve you.
We do not know if Martha got it or not. Later in John 12, we find her serving again, but nothing is mentioned of any attitude problems there (John 12:1-8). But here when Jesus says, “Mary has chosen the good portion,” He means she has chosen that which fills her soul.
There is no other way to fill your soul unless you make time to do it. You can’t get to know someone on the fly. For me the lie is, “I know I have to sit and listen to the Lord and His Word. But what if I hear nothing? I could something better than my time.” It’s a lie. God is more anxious to speak to us than we are to hear from Him.
If I want to have quality time with my wife or kids or with anyone, I can’t force it to happen. I can’t say at 8pm on Tuesday night, pour out your heart to me and tell me your hearts deepest longings. But what I can do is have lots of quantity time with my kids, ordinary, mundane times and wait for one of those times to kind of happen without really trying. Quality time can only come out of quantity time.
It is the same with God. You have to invest time seeking him. You have to invest time reading his Word. You have to invest time in corporate worship. You have to. If you give him enough time, if you’re seeking him, if you’re reflecting on him, if you’re worshiping him, and if you’re praying to him, of course, you’re not always going to get these incredible times of worship, but that’s the only way you’ll ever get them.If you have time to look at social media an email, you have time for this.
It’s like eating a meal. Think of all the meals you ate in 2014. Some of us can’t even remember what we ate this morning. You had ordinary meals, but I am sure in there somewhere, there were some amazing meals right? But if you never eat, you will never experience an amazing meal. Jesus says, “I want to give you the food that won’t perish. That approval you are looking for, the acceptance you are striving hard for, wanting to fit in, wanting to feel beautiful, wanting to be appreciated, noticed, wanted, etc. find it here at my feet. Taste my love.”
Without listening to the Lord, you will end up frantic, hurried, anxious all the time. You are going to wither away emotionally, spiritually and physically. Just like your cellphone, when you never charge it, you will be dead inside. Fruitfulness in life comes from abiding in the vine, being connected to Him. Spouses, you can’t be the husband or wife you need to be for your spouse without this. You can’t be the parent you need to be. You can’t serve here without it. You can’t work at your job or study well without it.
I love what Jack Klumpenhower in his book Show Them Jesus says, “Look what Jesus lovingly taught [Martha]: Don’t try to serve me; let me first serve you. Don’t try to impress me; rely on me. Don’t be anxious about pleasing me; just come to me. On the way to the cross, that lesson fits. The cross is where Jesus frees us from the crushing, impossible pressure of having to serve God well enough. He rescues us from a worried-about-ourselves, Martha kind of relationship with God. In him we lay down our bowls, spoons and every other burden—and enjoy divine fellowship.”
Let’s come to the Table receiving His welcome to come.
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