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A Tale Of Two Sisters

“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

—Luke 10:38-42


It was the best of times; it was the worst of times….

Juxtaposed against the heart wrenching story of the “Good Samaritan” is another poignant story in the life of our Savior. Maybe we are told about these two sisters to keep us from going overboard in our attention to the earthly details of our Christian service. At any rate, this is a story that deserves our undivided attention from time to time.

First we notice that Martha received Jesus “into her house.” We should always be more concerned with Jesus receiving us into His house! He visits us that we may visit Him, if you please. If Jesus comes to you it is not because he wants to see how impressive your service to Him can be; rather, He wants to impart His Word to you that you might be edified and He might be glorified.

Contrast Mary’s position to that of her sister: she sat at His feet and heard His word, while Martha flitted busily about the house, apparently oblivious to the presence of the Lord. Maybe she was putting the final touches on the food, or giving the silverware one last polishing. It is highly likely that there were many other guests in the house that needed to be accommodated, and Martha was rushing around from room to room to make sure everybody was well taken care of.

How much better off we would be if we would but follow Mary’s example. It is so easy to get caught up in the melodrama of our existence, with so many items vying for our attention. Things are happening all over the world that could easily cause us to lose our focus, and forget that our whole existence revolves around our Master; and when He comes into the house, it’s time to forget about everything else and sit at His feet and hear His word. What a colossal tragedy that some of the greatest messages ever preached are sometimes lost to average churchgoers, because their minds are preoccupied with personal problems and extraneous activities! May God have pity upon those who make their agenda take precedence over His!

Too many times we make Jesus just a small character in the great drama of our life and living, when He wants to be the Star—the main attraction and the central theme of our lives. We should never lightly treat the presence of God in our services. No matter what our station in the house of God, we must never make the mistake of thinking that the servant has more honor than his master.

Martha was cumbered — occupied needlessly, vainly, without a cause — with her “service.” She was obsessed with getting her job done. She wanted desperately to make a good impression on all the guests, but the only One that really mattered she shamefully neglected.

Even her prayer to Jesus was selfish and conceited: “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone. … Bid her … that she help me.” Martha had no idea of what was most important to Jesus. Because she was so self-centered, she could only see that Jesus was in her house, and she needed to serve Him—along with whatever other guests that were there. It didn’t matter to her why Jesus was there; she had so much to do, and her lazy sister was just sitting there, listening to Jesus! If we listen carefully we can even now hear what must have been going through her mind: ‘What will people think of me if I don’t get everything done? Why, we will be the laughingstock of the village!’

Jesus graciously informed Martha of her error: “You care and are agitated about many things; but actually you have neglected and overlooked the main and most important thing: Sitting at my feet and hearing my words! Mary, the sister that you resent because she is not participating in your self-centered program, is actually doing what pleases me; and in spite of your prayers against her, she shall remain undisturbed.”

May we always remember that we are not in a contest to see who can do the most for Him—and make the best impression on others; rather we are laborers together with Him—and He always gets all the glory!

–Rev. Tim D. Cormier

Reprinted from the December, 2000 issue of the Apostolic Standard.

(C) Copyright held by Tim D. Cormier. This document may not be reproduced in whole or in part, except for personal use, without the express written permission of the author.


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