by Chuck Swindoll
During His earthly sojourn, Jesus had many casual acquaintances but few intimate friends outside the circle of His twelve disciples. There were three friends, however, with whom He was very close. They lived in the village of Bethany and were from the same family—a couple of sisters named Mary and Martha and their brother, Lazarus. It must have been a refreshing relief for the Master to have at least one home in which He could sit and visit, kick off His sandals, and really relax.
One of those opportunities occurred during an otherwise busy time in His ministry. Luke recorded the scene for us in the last few verses of the tenth chapter in his gospel account. He began:
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” (Luke 10:38–40)
Immediately, we can see the difference between those two sisters—one was satisfied to sit and visit with Jesus, relaxing in His presence, while the other was all bent out of shape over “all her preparations.” Frustrated and put out with Mary, Martha decided to unload on Jesus, telling Him to command Mary to get herself in the kitchen and help her out. Didn’t He see that “all her preparations” required a lot of effort? Certainly there was nothing wrong with Martha’s desire to be hospitable—she just took things too far, tried to fix too much, and allowed her work to keep her from relaxing and enjoying one of those rare occasions to be with Jesus. She deserved high marks for motive, but she allowed her responsibilities to keep her from making the most of the opportunity.
We know that from Jesus’s response:
The Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41–42)
Being keenly perceptive, Jesus saw beyond Martha’s pressing desire to prepare something for them to eat as He put His finger on the problem: she was trying to do too much. That led to her losing patience with her sister and feeling the need to tell Jesus what to do to change things!
When Jesus told Martha that only “one thing” was necessary, He was helping her see the importance of keeping everything in balance. There was nothing wrong with her wanting to prepare and serve something—she just didn’t need to go overboard. It would have been much better to prepare something simple and easy. That would have allowed Martha time to sit and relax with them during Jesus’s visit. She also would have stayed calm, rather than gotten “worried and bothered” about things.
As we consider our goals for living a healthy lifestyle, it’s important that we keep our balance. Going too far, cutting back too much, pushing too fast, and trying too hard will lead to an intensity that is, in itself, unhealthy. You will do a lot better in the long run if you set reasonable goals, stay calm and steady, pace yourself, and refuse to make the extreme your standard. Preparation has just as much to do with the thoughts you put in your mind as it does with the food you put in your mouth.
This is a good time to pause and evaluate your intensity. Have you become “worried and bothered” about too many things—or are you staying calm and realistic? If your intensity level is too high, back off; you’ll be a lot happier. Furthermore, you’ll be a lot easier to live with.