“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 10:41-42
I have felt so torn lately. So many plates to spin. I have various areas of ministry I am involved in along with responsibility of being a homemaker, daughter, mother, and wife. I see other women who accomplish so much and think, “When do they have time to surf Pinterest too?” Anytime I stop focusing on one aspect, another falls apart; hence the pile of clothes in the laundry room. Sometimes I get caught up in trying to be a Proverbs 31 Woman with a Martha Mentality.
When reading the Proverbs 31 Woman’s to-do-list, I feel exhausted, but by some supernatural power she is able to accomplish it! Then when I read the story of Mary and Martha I honestly feel for Martha. No matter how hard she tries, she feels that her work is never going to be done. What’s more, it seems to me that Mary gets off easy and the other two women are doing all the work!
Haven’t you felt that way before? You clean your one room and move to the next, then you turn around to see that the first room is destroyed? When this happens to me, it’s like a scene from a horror film. I am shocked that everything has been destroyed in the blink of an eye.
So what is the difference between Martha and the Proverbs 31 Woman? Here are some of my observations:
1) Martha had her eyes on everyone else. You will NEVER have peace when you are worried about what others think. Martha started comparing herself to Mary. She saw that Mary was just sitting around doing “nothing”. When reading Proverbs 31, I see a woman who knows the task at hand and makes a plan. She doesn’t have time to focus on others and seems so confident in herself that she doesn’t have the need to. The only time she is compared to other women is when her husband and children praise her saying, “Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all!” (Proverbs 31:29 MSG) Isn’t that what matters?… Not what you think about yourself compared to other women, but what your family thinks about you.
2) Martha’s focus was on duty instead of devotion: When reading Martha’s demand, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”(Luke 10:40) I see that Martha’s motives may not have been for the glory of the her Master, but for the sake of duty. When I read Proverbs 31, it comes across to me as if the Woman had been given a task and she had joyfully accepted it. You can tell that she took pride in her life’s work and did not begrudge it. Her sense of hospitality is a stark contrast to Martha’s. Instead of getting flustered when people show up at her door, “she opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” (Proverbs 31:20) (I have so much to learn!)
3) Martha’s goal was affirmation: We all like to be affirmed. Don’t you wish that someone would give you applause after changing each diaper or emptying the dishwasher? The truth is, the daily grind of being a housewife is, for the most part, a thankless job. That is what Martha struggled with, and I don’t blame her! In contrast, after a lifetime of not seeking affirmation, the Proverbs 31 Woman receives it, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” (Proverbs 31: 30-31)
The key in both stories is that the “woman who fears the LORD will be praised”. Both the Proverbs 31 Woman and Mary were praised! It is not about all the work that you do for your family or for a ministry, it is about your heart. If your heart is not right, you quit being the Proverbs 31 Woman and become Martha! Do not be so busy that you forget to be still!
- When you have your eyes on everyone else…seek the LORD to confirm your task and give you strength. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3
- When you begin to focus on duty instead of devotion…seek the LORD and recommit the works of your hands to Him. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…”Colosians 3:23
- When you seek affirmation from others…seek the favor of the LORD. “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck,write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3: 3-4
When you seek the LORD, you will be like the Proverbs 31 Woman and have the supernatural power able to accomplish your to-do-list! Or you may be called to be Mary, and let some things go because as the Jesus said, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.” It is in these quiet times that we can decipher between the two.
Because my audience has changed since my time over at Mosaic of Moms, I decided to repost some of my favorite devotional pieces I wrote for that project. This article was originally published on Mosaic of Moms on June 4, 2012.
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