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Martha and Mary in service of the Lord

Martha and Mary were sisters. Their brother was Lazarus. At one point Jesus visited them at their house.

By Rev Dr Levee Kadenge

The scripture says: As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“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 v 38-42)

The two women waited upon the Lord in different ways. One was prepared to listen to the Lord while the other one was ready to work for the Lord. Such was the plight of the sisters — of the one who worked for the Lord and the one who sat down to listen to the Lord, which one was doing the right thing?

The great news was that both ladies were prepared to serve the Lord. One was working for the Lord by preparing food for him while the other one was working for the Lord by just sitting under his feet to give Him her ear. She wanted an understanding of the Lord’s work and to learn. Both acts constitute working for the Lord in the scheme of worship.  

What did the Lord do? The Lord understood that they were working for him in different ways, each one doing her own thing.

Each one of them did her part whole-heartedly. They worked very hard to please him. He was the centre of attraction.

People work for the Lord in different ways. They indeed would be doing well for the Lord. However, whatever work that a person does for the Lord should be done to the best of one’s ability. We cannot all be doing the same thing for the Lord because we are gifted differently. You do not want to think you are the only worker in the kingdom. All are called to serve.

When one chooses to work for the Lord, it must always be in the best interest of the kingdom of God. Naturally, we care for what we do as individuals and care less for what others are doing for the same Lord. We want to take the prize, but it is not a competition. What images are we projecting when we compete in the house of the Lord? We cannot be said to be working for the Lord yet not take notice of what others are doing for the same kingdom.

We do right when what we do fulfils the aspirations of the one we are working for. The Lord understands that His people are working for the kingdom and each one is doing their best to serve Him. As a collective, we must realise is that we are all working for the Lord. The Lord is the personhood to work for in all our small ways.

All people were created to work for the Lord in one way or the other. Do not be discouraged, discover your talent and work for the Lord to the best of your ability.

In this case, Mary was listening to the Lord while Martha was working in the kitchen then Martha complained that Mary did not care to help her. She was just sitting doing nothing listening to the Lord. This must have annoyed Mary because she was doing something. She was working. She was learning. She was doing her best under the circumstances. But the sister could not appreciate the kind of work Mary was undertaking. Jesus then said Mary had chosen what would not be taken away from her — an education.

They could have been doing the same thing but the other one chose to work for the Lord in a different way. When you have chosen to work for the Lord, you can either be doing the work at his feet or you can do it in the glare of everyone. When you are working for the Lord you should not be surprised to hear that other people are doing the same. No one should rubbish your efforts.

Whatever you are doing, you are free to work for the Lord in the way you can. Nothing is impossible. You can work for the Lord even in secret. There is no work which is lesser than the other. All is invaluable work when you do it in the name of the Lord.  

Many people like to be seen to be doing more for the Lord. They crave for an audience. Just doing something is enough, people do not matter. Their comments do not matter. Their acts of discouragement do not matter. Their competitive spirits do not matter. 

In the greater scheme of things, only God counts.  

Let those with ears hear.


l Levee Kadenge is a theologian at United Theological College. He can be contacted at leveekadenge@gmail.com

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