Overcoming Martha Syndrome

“But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41).

Jesus visited the house of Mary and Martha while travelling through a village called Bethany. Now the two sisters had two different responses to Jesus visiting their house. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to his teachings. “But Martha was very busy and distracted with all of her serving responsibilities; and she approached Him and said, “Lord, is it of no concern to You that my sister has left me to do the serving alone? Tell her to help me and do her part”” (Luke 10:40). Jesus’s response is perhaps not what Martha would have expected. He pointed out to her that she was troubled and anxious about many things.

“but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part [that which is to her advantage], which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). Jesus was not so concerned or impressed by Martha’s serving. It does not mean that he was not grateful to be served or impressed by her service to others. I think the concern was that Martha had not found the balance between serving and being served. She had not learnt how to simply sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what he was saying.

I am not blaming Martha for her actions and I assume that perhaps she was the older of the two sisters. Maybe she had been taught that she was useful only to serve. Martha had probably derived her sense of significance from being of service to others. Imagine that the Messiah was in her house and her anxiety was about serving instead of hearing him speak. Had Martha been taught that it is ok to be served by others and that it is ok to rest from her serving?

As I consider Martha’s plight I know that many of us have been socialised to serve others. We also work in professions that are characterised by serving and giving of ourselves daily. We have to strike the balance between serving and giving so much of ourselves that we become empty. The desire to please others can cause us great anxiety and the constant pressure to perform can be exhausting. Let us learn to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what he has to say. Pray and ask God to help you to find rest to be able to choose the “better part.”


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