Martha’s Moment

For years I have chafed at the flak Martha gets whenever the Mary and Martha story fromMarta_e_Maria Luke 10 is told. I have always identified with Martha. Someone had to prepare the meal, right? Someone had to extend hospitality! Yet the story is often presented as Jesus rebuking Martha, and then holding Mary up as the quintessential Christian woman.

But there is another Mary and Martha story. It is found John’s gospel, and I like it much better!

You may remember that Mary and Martha had a brother named Lazarus, and they lived in Bethany. Now Lazarus died, and when Jesus got word of his death he took his time getting to Bethany, though it was only a couple of miles from Jerusalem. The professional mourners were there, as well as friends who came to console Mary and Martha. This might well have been another opportunity for Martha to slip into her super-hostess role.

But when Martha heard Jesus was coming, she ran out to meet him, leaving her houseguests. Mary stayed inside, too.  Martha’s conversation with Jesus is as revealing as it is lovely. She professes faith in the resurrection, and belief that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

So, who gets it this time?!!! Mary is sitting at home wailing, and who is running out to greet Jesus, professing Him as the Christ? That’s right…it’s Martha!

(OK, I know my reaction is a just a bit over the top, but surely you see the justification, right?)

Seriously…something came of Martha’s encounter with Jesus back in Luke 10. The truth of the matter is that Jesus blessed Martha because he told her the truth about herself…

Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things…

In essence, Jesus was revealing to Martha her false self–the identity she had established for herself that was rooted in appearances and propriety.

Somewhere between that first visit and the death of her brother, Martha came to understand her true identity as one lovingly created by God to be in communion with him forever. This is evident in her profession of faith in the resurrection—that time when the dead would be raised to an eternal life with God, herself included. In that moment of truth with Jesus, I think Martha encountered the Living God who revealed to her her true self, freeing Martha from the false self–the woman whose worth was rooted in her performance.

We are all like Martha in one way or another. Like Martha, we have created our own identity, often completely de-centered from God. And Jesus is just waiting for us to allow him to speak to that identity, to reveal our false self, so that we can shed it like the dead weight it is!

Will you allow Jesus to address your false self? He is not anxious to give a sharp rebuke, but rather a gentle and loving invitation to release that which is not of Christ so that your true self–your Christ-self–can emerge.

You might begin by praying, “Come, gentle Jesus…”


Don’t forget the blueberries!

In his book The Healing Reawakening, Francis MacNutt notes that people rarely come asking for the fruit of the Spirit. Rather, they come asking for the gifts of the Spirit. He writes–

…many people ask for us to pray for them to receive the charismatic gifts, such as, “Please pray for me to receive the gift of healing.” Relatively few ask for the fruits of the Spirit, saying something like, “I have trouble loving other people. Would you pray that I receive the gift of loving and caring?”

Francis MacNutt wrote about me. I have often asked for God to give me a particular spiritual gift. I rarely have intentionally asked for the fruit of the Spirit. In fact, I have joked for years about not asking for patience because the lessons to learn it are painful!

I am all about doing. I have long prided myself on keeping busy. I certainly identify with Martha in the biblical story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10. I’ve read countless books and heard countless talks about the importance of being over doing, only to think to myself that if it weren’t for those of us who do, nothing would ever get done. (Seriously, there’s a certain amount of truth in that, right?!)

The point is not to separate the doing from the being. The point is that the gifts without the fruit lead to pride and self-aggrandizement. Asking for the gifts of the Spirit and not for the fruit of the Spirit is rooted in selfishness, even when it is born out of misunderstanding.

When I ask for the fruit of the Spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control–I’m asking God to form in me particular qualities of character. That means it’s who I am all the time. When I ask for Spiritual gifts, I’m asking for something I can use, something I can do when and if I choose.

I often teach that ministry is not just what we do, but it is who we are. That’s only true when we pray for the fruit of the Spirit in conjunction with the gifts of the Spirit. When I have the character of Christ, the spiritual gifts become tools which I selflessly use to bless others. The fruit of the Spirit informs me how to use the gifts of the Spirit for God’s glory rather than my own.

No doubt about it, I need more fruit.

summer-fruit-bowl-02So, God, may I please have some raspberries…and strawberries…and peaches? Maybe a banana and some kiwi? And please don’t forget the blueberries. I need them all!