Published on November 7th, 2011 | by Stephanie S. Smith
Ministry burn-out is an all-too-common reality leaders and volunteers face today, and the statistics are high. There are always people in need, services to perform, and teams to lead. Like Martha in Luke 10, we become preoccupied with projects rather than Christ’s presence. And the response Jesus gave Martha is His same response to us, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but only one thing is needed.”
In this passage, Jesus has brought his disciples and other guests into Mary and Martha’s house with him to be fed, and while Martha busies herself serving, May sits at the feet of Jesus to listen to Him teach. Finally, Martha rebukes both Jesus and her sister both, saying, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (Luke 10:40).
I relate to Martha’s urge to get the work done and then the stress, and resulting resentment of others, of carrying such work alone. My Scripture translation (ESV) said that Martha was “distracted with much serving” (verse 40) and I believe this is a common occurrence in ministry. It is tempting to become so wrapped up in the serving itself that we neglect Who we are serving. But time spent with Jesus is never wasted.
I also think that Martha’s busy preparation and serving her guests is tempting for us to do in our own ministry because this kind of work is such that it has visible results. Some ministry is structured and quantifiable in its effectiveness, but I think even more often we have to trust that God is working through us although we may never see the results. As Jesus responded to Martha, only one thing is needed: seeking first His presence in our midst. In the end, that is the foundation of fruitful ministry.
What else do you learn about priorities from Jesus’ response to Martha?