Martha’s flaw in this story isn’t her attention to detail. Actually, her attention to detail is admirable. Who doesn’t want a clean house when you’re entertaining?
However, Martha’s words reveal what’s going on in her heart, and that’s the problem.
“Don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself?”
MY sister has left ME to prepare the table all by MYSELF.
Martha’s host-work wasn’t about doing something nice for a guest. It was about herself. She wanted recognition and appreciation for what she was doing. When the attention was upon Jesus and not upon “My, what a lovely dinner you’ve prepared,” she took it personally. Her asking Jesus, “Tell her to help ME,” is Martha’s ego intruding upon a holy scene. It’s the toddler shouting, “Not fair!”
Martha pays the price for this self-obsession. She’s overly sensitive. She’s keeping score. She’s worrying over trivial things. She can’t relax.
The degree of love we give another person is in direct proportion to how we dissolve our egos in giving it. The purest form of love focuses on the receiver and not the giver. It’s keeping the emphasis upon the other person. It’s knowing their needs. It’s listening and asking questions. It’s sacrificing. It’s the undivided attention that Mary gives Jesus.
Loving like this is difficult because we like the affirmation of, “I hope they see what a nice person I am.” That’s why it would be helpful, occasionally, to do something kind and thoughtful for another person and that person will never guess it was you who did it.
In other words, what anonymous act of kindness can you do for someone? (Feel free to offer suggestions in the comments section below.)
It’s never wrong to have good attention to detail, as Martha had. We just have to remember that it’s about the guest and not the host.