Daily Devotions

The Mary and Martha Within

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Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41b-42)

In my first congregation, I had an older female friend who came into my office, frustrated. She read the story of Mary and Martha and was upset because she understood herself to be a Martha. She asked, “Why would God affirm Mary, when Martha did all the work?” Now, don’t you for one second think this is just a woman’s issue because Mary and Martha are female. Mary and Martha’s personalities and examples are indicative of both men and women.

Most of us are like Martha. We try to please. We try to earn other people’s acceptance, validation, and even base our own respectability on how other people perceive us. In similar fashion, Martha’s faith is one of trying to earn God’s acceptance, validation, and respectability through works righteousness. If we are good enough, kind enough, spiritual enough, anything enough, God just might accept and love us.

Mary has another type of faith. She has a healthy self-confidence that allows her to base her worth on more than just the affirmation of others. She can comfortably sit at the feet of Jesus because she knows herself to be worthy of Jesus’s attention and instruction. Mary isn’t arrogant, but a person who understands what is important, and the dishes aren’t as important as soaking up every minute she can while present with Jesus.

Today, prayerfully come to terms with the Martha and Mary within you. We all need a big part of Martha within, or nothing would get done. But too many of us ignore our inner Mary. We are so busy doing, that we ignore the Divine presence in our lives. Give us the ability to affirm our inner Mary and stop long enough to fall at the feet of Jesus and listen, learn, and enjoy the Messiah.

Your Goal is Your Loved Ones

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Those who trouble their households will inherit wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise. (Proverbs 11:29)

When I started seminary, I was only 21 years old. God has always had a sense of humor with my life. I attended McCormick Theological Seminary, which made second career students the norm before it was in other places. I was the youngest student in the seminary – and a number of the students were older than my mother. It took a great deal of time, energy, and focus in order keep up with all the brilliance and life-experiences the other students expressed. 

Sadly, too often my work took such focus that I had to ignore other important aspects of my life. Even after Jill and I were married, I often put her on the back burner while I strived to keep up academically. Once ordained, older ministers bragged about working 60 to 70 or more hours per week, like it was a badge of honor. Personal health and family responsibility were destined to suffer. Shame on me and my older colleagues for accepting this life imbalance.

Dr. Benjamin Hardy, PhD, in his article, “You Can Do More Good Than You Think,” leaves us with a challenge, “Never let a goal to be accomplished become more important than a person to be loved.” Busyness should never replace intimacy. Love and compassion must include our familial relationships. If we serve God at their expense, we fail in our service. It took me far too long to learn that lesson.

Today, reflect on the balance, or imbalance, in your life. Do not do this with guilt. That will only leave one frozen in place. Honestly reflect on the decisions and sacrifices made in life. Doing so will help us decide who we are and who we wish to become at this next stage in our life. Pray through your reflections and decisions, so God can assist you in your decisions. Sometimes sacrifices should be made, even at the expense of those we love, but it should never become the norm. Let your loved ones be your goal.

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