Vol. 3, No. 10
What comes to your mind when someone mentions the biblical character Martha? Most often, when Martha is mentioned and taught in our Bible classes we remember Jesus gently rebuked her in Luke 10 beginning with verse 38.
“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, 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” Luke 10:38-42.
Martha, her sister Mary and her brother Lazarus lived in Bethany. Jesus often stayed with them when in the area. On one occasion, Jesus and some of his disciples came to visit. As a good host, Martha busily prepared a meal for her guests. The homes in Palestine in the first century were not like our modern homes. Most if not all the cooking was prepared outside the house. This would have placed Martha outside away from the teaching of Jesus and the fellowship of the other guests. While Martha prepared food, her sister Mary sat at Jesus' feet listening to his every word. The Scriptures state that Martha was “cumbered with much serving" and came to Jesus requesting that he tell Mary to help her. Jesus' reply was that Mary had chosen the better part. Many times, we think harshly of Martha for not wanting to listen to the teachings of Jesus. We believe that Mary was holier than Martha. This is not true. Look at John 11:21-27. When Martha's brother Lazarus died, it was Martha that went to Jesus as soon as she heard Jesus was coming. It was Martha that confessed that God would grant whatever Jesus requested. It was Martha that stated, "I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” Jesus was not rebuking Martha for her hospitality of preparing a meal for him and the other guests. He simply stated that he would not send Mary away from his teaching. Martha's problem was that of a bad attitude. I like to classify this as the "I syndrome.” Martha was placing her desires and feelings above Mary's. She was so involved in feeling sorry for herself and the fact that she was doing all the serving her attitude was wrong toward her sister. Martha believed and loved Jesus. In all probability, she would like to have sat at Jesus' feet and listened to him. She also felt the need to show hospitality toward her guests. She had opened her home to them and had a responsibility to care for them. Martha was putting herself above Mary. Let us not forget that Martha was a faithful disciple of Jesus who temporarily had her attitude and priorities out of order. John 11:5 states that Jesus loved Martha. Martha's problem was not an ongoing problem but an occasional attitude problem. Many times, we too, get our attitudes and priorities out of order. We become so involved in the daily affairs of maintaining our homes and caring for our families we forget to keep our priorities in order. We love God and try to follow his teachings as best we can. We sometimes forget our focus is supposed to be on God.
Paul encouraged the Corinthians to examine their lives verifying their righteousness. Second Corinthians 13:5 reads “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" We too need to periodically examine our lives making course corrections along the way. With this thought in mind, please evaluate your life this past month. Using paper with the words God, Husband, Children and Self written across the top; place a number above each word indicating the place each of these individuals had in your life with one (1) being the most important and (4) being in a lower position of importance.
When asked “is God most important in your life?” most of us would state, "Yes, God is most important in my life.” But, how DO we show our love and his importance to us? Many of us can honestly say we attend all the worship services at our local congregations. We add that we attend the Sunday morning and Wednesday evening Bible classes. Many of us add that we attend the special services that our elders have set at our home congregations for worship and edification such as Gospel Meetings, Ladies' Days, Vacation Bible School, etc. These are important and required in order to be pleasing to God (Hebrews 10:25). However, how many of us make the effort to attend Gospel Meetings, Vacation Bible Schools and other activities of our sister congregations? We are not required to attend every service of all of the events of area congregations. However, if God is first and foremost in our lives, we will make the effort to attend these services as we have opportunity. Attending serves two purposes: (1) To edify and encourage ourselves and (2) To encourage our brothers and sisters in other areas. Just as Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses during the fight with Amalek (Exodus 17:8-16), we too hold up the hands of our brethren by attending their special services.
Another way that we show God is first in our lives is by the little things we do for our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is in the area of the little things where we many times fall short. Romans 12:15 states “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." Do you send birthday cards or anniversary cards to fellow Christians? This is a little thing that lets others know that you care and you are thinking of them. In today's time frame, many marriages end in divorce. It is uncommon for couples to be married 20, 30 or more years. Today's society tells us “if things are not going as we want leave and find someone else." It takes effort to work out our problems. It is easier to walk away. It would be encouraging to send anniversary cards letting others know we are rejoicing with them as they share another year together -- a little thing that means a lot. Do we send a get well card to those who are sick or a thinking of you card to our shut ins; do we pick up the phone and call someone who is down just to say “I am thinking of you" or to say “I missed you at services today”? These are the little things that mean a lot. Just because they are “little things” does not make them any less important. In fact, we should be moving these “little things" to a higher priority on our lists. We need to adjust our priorities to put God first in our lives and let others know we care about them as persons and we care about their souls.
To those who teach Bible classes, when do you normally prepare your lesson? How many times on Saturday night as you are going to bed have you hurriedly prepared a lesson for the next morning? You had good intentions all week to work on your lesson, but other things hindered that preparation. Were you really putting God first that week? We all have good intentions; we just allow the everyday duties and responsibilities to interfere.
In setting our priorities in order, to those who are married, our husbands must be second. Jesus told the multitudes in Luke 14:26 “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” The word 'hate' means to 'love less.' We must love God more than our husbands. Also, we must love our husbands more than our parents (Genesis 2:24). Some of the “little things" that we do to show our husbands their importance to us would include: keeping a neat and orderly home (I did not say spotless; there is nothing wrong with our homes looking lived in; just remember we are stewards of all God's blessings. In order to be a good steward we must take care of the possessions God has given us.); keeping the laundry washed, dried and put away; cooking his favorite dinner; learning to enjoy something he likes to do; giving up something we want to do to spend time with him; not being critical of him (we should never criticize our husbands in front of others or broadcast his shortcomings for others to hear -- we all have our faults) and making an effort to look nice when he comes home from work will let him know that you think of him while he is gone. We must remember that our husbands are second on the priority ladder; they cannot become more important than God or less important than anyone else. The little things we do for our husbands let them know they are important to us.
In setting our priorities in order, our children should be next. Yes, our children should take second place to our husbands. Remember, one day the children will be grown and move away. If you do not maintain a relationship with your husband while they are home, you will have a difficult time adjusting to a life without them and will not know how to relate to your husband. Your husband is not the same person he was when you married him and you are not the same person he married. You must maintain a relationship with your husband while your children are home. Your children need to be taught that you love them and their father loves them. They also need to be taught the love you have for their father is a different love. Children need to be taught that mothers and fathers need to have time alone just for them. This is not being selfish; it is not neglecting our children; it is good parenting.
Some of the things we do to show our children their importance to us would include: Teaching them God's Word. This can be done by reading the Bible, singing songs and using everyday activities and actions to teach about God and his will for us. This will also show our children God is important to us. We will insist that our children attend all the Bible classes set by the elders, insist that they behave while in class, do the assignments given and we should reinforce the lessons at home. If we love our children and want to show them this love, we will discipline our children when necessary to include both positive (praise and possible reward when something is done well) and negative (punishment = time out, spanking, taking away privileges, etc. The situation and age of the child should determine the punishment.), cooking nice nutritious meals, keeping their clothes clean and neat, encouraging them to do their best in school and taking an interest in their education, attending school functions and teaching them to be responsible. Some of these may seem unnecessary to mention, trivial or a “little thing” but, Titus 2:3-6 tells the older women to teach the younger women to 'love their husbands' and to 'love their children.' This is something we need to teach. Mothers, we need to begin this teaching while our daughters are young (example is best) and the Bible Class teachers can reinforce this teaching through the years. Remember the “little things" mean a lot and show our children they are important to us.
Sometimes we allow our children to hinder our ability to keep our priorities in order. We become so involved in their activities, desires and needs we tend to push their interests up the priority ladder, thus pushing everything else down the ladder. When our children are small they need more attention and care. As they become older, we need to teach them to be independent and allow them that independence when they are grown. When our children are grown adults they should not be depending on mom to do their laundry, cook and care for them as we did when they were young children. We cannot allow our grown children to hinder us from doing God's work.
In order to be pleasing to God and to be truly happy, we must place ourselves last in this list. This is totally foreign to the beliefs, actions and teachings of the world. The world tells us “I am NUMBER ONE -- I should get what I want with no thought for anyone else.” The “I syndrome" causes unhappiness. When we become self-centered we will put our desires, feelings and needs above all others without regard to the effect it has on those who love us and interact with us each day. Consider some things we need to evaluate in setting our priorities in order: Jobs -- I am not opposed to women working outside the home. Some women must work outside the home for financial reasons. I would caution, those with children living at home, who work outside the home, to evaluate the reason you are working. Is it of necessity or is it for the added luxuries? Only you and your husband can answer this question and only God can judge you in this matter. I would also caution your attitude toward your job. Yes, you have a responsibility to your employer to do your best and give your time to the job, but that job should not be our total focus. With today's society looking down on women who choose to stay home with their children, it is easy to feel a sense of worthlessness when it seems all we do is cook and clean. Working outside the home at a job we love and are good at can give a sense of accomplishment. We need to be careful that we do not allow this feeling to override our other responsibilities and keep this job in its proper place in our lives. When we do not maintain the proper attitude toward our job we can unintentionally push ourselves up the priority ladder while pushing God, our husbands and our children down this ladder. All four individuals cannot be on top of the ladder.
A great love for sports (watching or playing), shopping, reading, sewing or any activity we enjoy can interfere with setting things in the proper priority in our lives. Most of the things we do are not wrong; it is the manner in which we view these things and how we may allow them to interfere with other things that we need to do that makes them wrong. It is a matter of setting our priorities in order.
Please, do not misunderstand what I am saying. Sometimes we need to say no to the things our children, husbands or friends may ask us to do. Sometimes we need to have time to ourselves. We cannot constantly give ourselves to others without spending time on ourselves. Those who love us and have been properly educated in how to love others will understand this. The Bible shows us Jesus understood this principle as we are told that he often separated from the multitudes to pray (Matthew 14:23; John 6:15). We, too, need time for prayer and relaxation for spiritual, mental and physical health. We are not being self-centered when we take time for ourselves in this manner.
As with Martha, we need to watch our attitude toward others. We need to watch the 'I syndrome.' We need to do good works for God. We need to show hospitality to others, take opportunities to teach others, teach Bible classes, etc. At the same time, we need to be mindful of our attitude while doing these good works. The song “I Traveled Down a Lonely Road" easily depicts this attitude. Verse one “I traveled down a lonely road and no one seemed to care, The burden on my weary back had bowed me to despair, I oft complained to Jesus how folks were treating me, and then I heard Him say so tenderly …" This verse concerns our attitudes toward others who seem to be ignoring us and our problems. Verse two “'I work so hard for Jesus' I often seem to boast and say, I've sacrificed a lot of things to walk the narrow way, I gave up fame and fortune; I'm worth a lot to thee,' And then I hear Him gently say to me …” This verse concerns our bragging attitude toward the good deeds we are doing. Verse 3 "Oh Jesus if I die upon a foreign field some day, 'Twould be no more than love demands No less could I repay, 'No greater love hath mortal man Than for a friend to die' These are the words He gently spoke to me …" This verse concerns our willingness to do whatever it takes to acceptably serve God. Let this song be a gentle reminder to watch our attitude as we do our good works for God.
“Setting our priorities in order," is not an easy task. We are drawn in many different directions. While our priority ladder should always have God, Husband, Children, Self in that order; some of the sub-categories may change throughout our lives. For example, when we have small children at home our responsibilities to them are greater than trying to evangelize the world. We have accomplished nothing if we convert the world to Christ and lose our children to the devil because we were too busy for God to teach and care for our families. When our children are grown, it takes less time and energy to maintain the home than it did when they were young. This gives us more time to serve God through hospitality, teaching Bible Classes, etc.
“Setting our priorities in order” is a matter of proper balance. Many times in many avenues of our lives we tend to swing to the right or left. While trying to correct something, we overcompensate and swing too far in the other direction. We need to be careful not to harshly judge others while at the same time the actions of some is evidence that something is wrong with their spiritual life. Every individual has various aspects of their life that others know nothing about. We need to be careful not to criticize others for not serving God in the same manner we serve God. Not every individual has the exact same talents, abilities or opportunities. We need to keep this in mind when discussing service to God with others. At the same time when an individual seems to be habitually missing worship services for reasons other than sickness or the requirements of a job we need to lovingly and kindly encourage that individual in his responsibilities to worship and serve God.
Sometimes the “little things" need to have a greater priority in our lives. It can be very difficult to keep our focus on God while trying to maintain a home and manage a family. It becomes easy to allow these mundane affairs of life to push our good intentions down the priority ladder. I have two suggestions that may help keep our perspective on the everyday details of life. (1) Make a “To Do List." Each morning make a list of all the things you would like to do today; be sure to include any appointments that are scheduled for the day. Next review the list numbering each entry by its importance for that day. Try not to make more entries than it is possible to complete and do not become unnecessarily upset if circumstances prohibit you from completing all the items on your list. By prioritizing your list you can easily tell which items can be pushed to another day. Sometimes it is helpful to maintain two lists -- one for daily activities and one for things that you would like to accomplish within the next few weeks. The second suggestion is to review the day's activities as you retire at night. Ask yourself "What did I accomplish this day? Did I do something in service to God? What was the most important or top priority of the day?" You may say "I spent the day with my husband, we relaxed together and enjoyed each other's company by going for a ride or window shopping or some other activity the two of you enjoy doing together.” Or you may say “I spent the day playing with my children" or you may say “I spent the day with a friend who needed comfort and companionship.” One of these activities may be the most important activity of the day. We may not have crossed any or few things off our “to do list," but, we did something that was important.
Let us remember the “priority ladder” God, husband, children, self in that order. No two people will fit on the same rung of the ladder. We are happiest when we keep each person on his proper rung of this ladder. We are unhappy with ourselves and those around us when we allow one or more persons to climb higher on our priority ladder than God has prescribed in the Bible (Luke 14:26). Now review your sheet of paper; did you number God, husband, children and self in that order as the proper priority for you this past month?