“Mary, who’s at the door? Put that ointment away and answer the door!” Martha yelled from the kitchen.
“I always have to answer the door,” Mary muttered under her breath. Martha gets to spend as much time in the kitchen as she wants, but I spend a few minutes mixing my ointments and I get in trouble, Mary thought to herself.
“Fine,” Martha said as she stormed past Mary. When Martha opened the door, she was surprised to see Jesus. “Master! What are you doing here? We weren’t expecting you,” she said as she pushed a few loose strands of hair behind her ears.
“May I come in?” Jesus asked.
“Of course. It’s just that I’m not prepared. I’m a mess and so is this house. I’ve been baking, and Mary’s always playing with those ointments of hers.”
“I know,” Jesus said, noticing the perspiration on her forehead. “I was going past your house and thought I’d stop in for a minute.”
“Please come in. I’ll be right back, I just have a few things to do in the kitchen. Mary, look who’s here!” Martha said hurriedly, “Please tend to Jesus. I’ll be in the kitchen for a little while. I don’t expect you to help me, since you never do,” Martha whispered through pursed lips.
“Thank you for always making me feel welcome, Mary. Listen closely, I have much to tell you,” Jesus said as he sat down.
Mary excitedly pulled her mat closer to Jesus’s feet and said, “Oh, do tell me, Master. I love listening to your stories.”
“So a few weeks ago, I was near the sea of Galilee with the twelve disciples and about twelve thousand others! I think there were around twelve thousand—I know there were five thousand, not counting their wives and children. Now, here’s the miraculous part. Everyone was hungry and the disciples were getting anxious, so I had to do something. We had five loaves of bread and two fish. I looked up to heaven, seeking help from my Father, and wouldn’t you know, we had enough food! And to make it even better, we had twelve baskets left over! Everyone was fed and happy, and the disciples learned that God can do anything.”
“Oh Master, that’s amazing. Praise be to God!” Mary exclaimed.
“I like to hear your stories too, Jesus, but I’m stuck in this hot kitchen, and Mary won’t ever help me!” Martha yelled, clearly exasperated as she peered through the kitchen doorway.
“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,” Jesus softly replied.
Without fabricating too much, we can assume that the cooking and cleaning needed to be done. Mary and Jesus needed food. The house needed to be clean. But that wasn’t where Martha’s focus should have been at that moment.
We have things in our lives that need to be done. But can they be rearranged so that we can purposely schedule our tasks to make working for the Lord a priority? If you’re not required to work late on a Wednesday, then why not make the better choice and attend church? If your branch is having an outreach event on Saturday morning, and you had plans to work in the yard, then consider saving the yard work for later and support the event with your attendance.
At first, it may not feel good to take the things that interfere with your service to God and put them aside. But in reality, when you do that, you ARE putting yourself first.
Consider it an act of self-care when you organize your priorities to prioritize God.
Self-care can become selfish when it is too focused on self, making ourselves better so that we can better serve…ourselves.
However, when we organize our priorities around God, we make ourselves better servants for God, and this is an act of self-care that is not selfish.
Some historians believe that Martha was the older sister, since it appears that her parents were no longer alive at the time of Jesus’s visit. Martha, perhaps the older sibling who also felt the need to parent, may have allowed this responsibility to overtake her, which in turn could’ve caused her to not be the best version of herself when Jesus arrived at the house.
It appears that Martha could have used some self-care (in the form of reorganizing her priorities) so that she could put God first.
Matthew 6:33 reminds us to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
We know this verse, but let’s also take a moment to read the prior verses 25 to 32. In these verses, Jesus tells us that God will feed us and clothe us, which flows perfectly into “all these things shall be added unto you.”
Then in verse 34, Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow.
If Martha had sought God first, prior to “all these [other] things,” then maybe she would have been a better version of herself—more peaceful and less stressed—when Jesus arrived.
Let’s learn from Martha’s example and focus on our service to God by practicing self-care that puts God first.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.