Distractions in Bethany
‘But 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!”’ (Luke chapter 10, verse 40)
Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. Distracted? I thought it was only in this millennium that we faced real distraction. Maybe it’s distractions from our phones and the 100+ notifications we might get daily. Perhaps it’s the constant stream of news that come in from around the globe.
Maybe we’re distracted by the career ladders we need to climb to achieve our ambitions, yet we aren’t focusing on other aspects of our wellbeing. Maybe there is some deep soul care you need to do, yet your attention has been taken by being consumed by what others think of you. I thought it was just a 2019 thing to be constantly faced with distractions.
But in 1st century Bethany, where Martha and Mary’s home was, Martha too faced distractions. Martha was so distracted with tidying the house, preparing some food and ensuring her home was fit for a messiah that she couldn’t simply sit and be present with him. She thought Jesus expected this tidy, prepared house.
In a way, it provides some relief - sometimes I get a bit jealous that I didn’t get to live in this time with Jesus in the flesh but turns out that even if Jesus in the flesh was sitting in your home, maybe you too would be too distracted to really appreciate it.
Us as Martha
Often we also look at ourselves and think we ought to present ourselves a certain way to Jesus. We think we need deal with things first and try tidy up aspects of our lives before we show it to Jesus. We think we need to present a tidy and full résumé of our lives to Jesus, as if that is what makes us acceptable to him.
Martha represents so many of us who are busy in our lives, in our churches, in our minds. We might serve in the church because it’s the right thing to do, and yes on the surface serving is a good thing. But maybe sometimes we serve just for the sake of being busy and think that it’s a good thing to do for God. Serving, or whatever makes you busy, can be one of the very distractions we fall into that diverts our attention from Jesus.
Martha asks “Lord don’t you care?”. If I may be so bold, I think if we asked God that same question about everything we busy ourselves with, he might just say, ‘No, I actually don’t care about all this stuff you’re doing - I don’t care about your A+ on your assignment, because you didn’t sleep for a week, you didn’t come to me and you were grumpy with your family; I don’t care you got a pay-rise at work because you haven’t spent time with me or rested your soul in four months; I don’t care you serve in 5 ministries at church, because you don’t know why you’re serving and I just want to talk to you, my child’.
I don’t think God cares about the stuff that fills our calendars, not because he straight up doesn’t care, but because he cares more about our hearts and souls. He cares more about the way we spend time with him and the way we love others.
When busy-ness becomes bad
‘“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her”’ (Luke chapter 10, verse 41 and 42)
Jesus sees Martha’s distractions and her fussing around the home and he sees she is upset and worried. He tells her that it’s not needed. I think sometimes I ignore the messages I get about slowing down, being less busy and actually taking time for myself, and God. The message becomes glaringly obvious when I am worried and when I am upset, because I have 15 things on my to-do list, and a short amount of time to do them in. And that’s not the way God wants us to live!
“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” (Luke chapter 10, verse 39)
While Martha was busy preparing the house for Jesus, and distracted from enjoying his presence, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened. Mary realised it was important to listen to Jesus. She didn’t continue fussing around the house. She listened to Jesus. How often do we stop fussing, get rid of the distractions, and sit at Jesus’ feet and listen? I know I hardly do this, and I can tell because my soul lacks rest, my to-do list gives me nightmares, and I’m not a joy to be around.
Let’s learn from Mary’s example that we need to sometimes cut the distractions and just be in the presence of God, listening to what he might have to say. It was important in 1st century Bethany, and it remains important now in 2019.
Rebecca Hoverd studies law and geography at The University of Auckland and loves writing as a way to communicate with God and to unpack her thoughts. She loves coffee, conversations, and would love to hear your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.