“Mary . . . kept listening to what [Jesus] was saying. Martha . . . was distracted with attending to many duties.”
SONGS: 94, 134
1, 2. Why did Jesus love Martha, but what shows that she was not perfect?
WHAT comes to mind when you think about the Bible character Martha? Although she was the only woman mentioned by name as being one whom Jesus loved, he also had pure unselfish love for other godly women, such as his dear earthly mother, Mary, and Martha’s sister, Mary. (John 11:5; 19:25-27) Why, then, is Martha mentioned in this way in the Gospel account?
2 Jesus loved Martha not only for her hospitable and industrious nature but, no doubt, because of her spirituality. She was a woman who truly believed Jesus’ teachings. Martha had remarkable faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah. (John 11:21-27) At the same time, like all of us, she was not perfect. On one occasion while Jesus was being entertained in her home, Martha presumed to tell Jesus what he should do to correct a situation she thought to be wrong. “Lord,” said Martha, “does it not matter to you that my sister has left me alone to attend to things? Tell her to come and help me.” (Read Luke 10:38-42.) What lesson can we learn from this account?
MARTHA WAS DISTRACTED
3, 4. In what way did Mary choose “the good portion,” and what lesson did Martha no doubt take to heart? (See opening image.)
3 In response to their hospitality, Jesus is moved to give Martha and Mary a spiritual gift. Mary seizes the opportunity to take in knowledge from the mouth of the Great Teacher and sits down “at the feet of the Lord . . . , listening to what he was saying.” Martha could have done the same. No doubt, Jesus would have commended Martha for giving him her full attention.
4 However, Martha gets busy preparing a special meal and does other chores to make Jesus’ stay as nice as possible. But all this work is causing her needless anxiety, and she becomes irritated with Mary. Jesus notices that Martha is trying to do too much, so he kindly says: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and disturbed about many things.” He then suggests that just one dish of food would be sufficient. Jesus now turns his attention to Mary and clears her of any negligence, saying: “For her part, Mary chose the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.” Mary may soon have forgotten what she ate on that special occasion, but she would never forget the commendation and fine spiritual food she received by giving Jesus her undivided attention. More than 60 years later, the apostle John wrote: “Jesus loved Martha and her sister.” (John 11:5) These inspired words surely indicate that Martha took to heart Jesus’ loving correction and that she strove to serve Jehovah faithfully for the rest of her life.
5. How does life in this modern world compare with life in Bible times, and what question does this raise?
5 Concerning distractions, how does the world we live in compare with the world of Bible times? “Never in history has mankind boasted superior means of communication, high speed printing presses, profusely illustrated magazines, the radio, movies, television. . . . They bombard us daily with fresh distractions . . . Not too long ago, it was fondly thought that ours was ‘The Age of Enlightenment.’ More and more it is becoming ‘The Age of Distraction.’” These words were spoken to a group of students in the United States over 60 years ago. “Distractions,” said The Watchtower of September 15, 1958, “will likely increase as this world nears its doom.” How true! And this raises an important question: What can we do to avoid needless distractions and become more like Mary, keeping our focus on spiritual things?
USING THE WORLD BUT NOT TO THE FULL
6. How have Jehovah’s people made good use of the world’s technology?
6 For the advancement of true worship, the earthly part of God’s organization has always made good use of the world’s technology. For example, consider the “Photo-Drama of Creation,” a photographic slide and motion picture production, complete with color and sound. Before and during World War I, millions throughout the world received comfort from this presentation, which concluded by describing the coming, peaceful Thousand Year Reign of Jesus Christ. Later, the Kingdom message was broadcast over public radio and was heard by millions more throughout the earth. Today, computer technology and the Internet are being used in a powerful way to spread the good news, reaching people on remote islands and in every corner of the earth.
7. (a) Why is it dangerous to make too much use of the world? (b) What should be of special concern to us? (See footnote.)
7 As the Bible warns, there is a danger in making too much use of what the world has to offer. (Read 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.) A Christian can easily waste an excessive amount of time on things that are not wrong in themselves, such as hobbies, recreational reading, TV watching, sightseeing, window shopping, and seeking out the latest electronic gadgets or luxuries. Social networking, texting, circulating e-mails, and frequently checking the latest news and sports events can also waste our time and can even become an obsession. * (Eccl. 3:1, 6) If we do not limit the amount of time we spend on nonessential things, we may find ourselves neglecting the most important activity of all
8. Why is the counsel not to be loving the things in the world so important?
8 Satan has designed his world to attract and distract us. That was true in the first century, and it is even more so today. (2 Tim. 4:10) Thus, we need to heed the counsel: “Do not love . . . the things in the world.” By constantly adjusting ourselves to live in accord with such counsel, we will avoid being distracted and we will be able to grow in our “love of the Father.” This, in turn, will make it easier for us to do the will of God and remain in his favor forever.
KEEP YOUR EYE FOCUSED
9. What did Jesus say about our figurative eye, and how did he set the example?
9 Jesus’ kind words of counsel to Martha were in perfect harmony with his teaching and his example. He encouraged his disciples to keep their figurative eye “focused” so as to pursue Kingdom interests without distraction. (Read Matthew 6:22, 33.) Jesus was not burdened with material possessions; he did not own a house or land.
10. What example did Jesus set early in his ministry?
10 Many things happened during Jesus’ ministry that could have distracted him, but he never succumbed to them. Early in his ministry, after he had taught the crowds and performed miracles in Capernaum, people begged him not to leave their city. But how did Jesus react to this flattering request? He said: “I must also declare the good news of the Kingdom of God to other cities, because for this I was sent.” (Luke 4:42-44) True to his word, Jesus walked the length and breadth of Palestine, preaching and teaching. Though perfect, he had normal human needs and sometimes felt very tired because of expending himself in God’s service.
11. What did Jesus say to a man who had a family dispute, and what warning did Jesus give?
11 On a later occasion while Jesus was teaching his followers how to cope with opposition, a man interrupted, saying: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But Jesus refused to be drawn into this dispute. “Man,” he answered, “who appointed me judge or arbitrator between you two?” Then Jesus continued with his teaching, warning his listeners about the danger of being distracted from God’s service by desires for material things.
12, 13. (a) Shortly before Jesus’ death, what aroused the interest of some Greek proselytes? (b) How did Jesus handle the potential distraction?
12 The last week of Jesus’ human life was very stressful. (Matt. 26:38; John 12:27) He had much work to do, and he faced a humiliating trial and a cruel death. Consider, for example, what happened on Sunday, Nisan 9, of the year 33 C.E. As foretold, Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt, and the crowds hailed him as “the one coming as the King in Jehovah’s name.” (Luke 19:38) The next day, Jesus entered the temple and courageously threw out the greedy businessmen who were using God’s house for extorting money from fellow Jews.
13 Among the crowds in Jerusalem were some Greek proselytes who evidently were so impressed with Jesus that they asked the apostle Philip to arrange a meeting with him. Jesus, however, refused to be distracted from the more important matters that lay ahead. He certainly did not want to try to gain popularity in order to avoid a sacrificial death at the hands of God’s enemies. So after explaining that he would soon die, he said to Andrew and Philip: “Whoever is fond of his life destroys it, but whoever hates his life in this world will safeguard it for everlasting life.” Rather than satisfy the curiosity of those Greeks, he recommended following his self-sacrificing course and promised: “If anyone would minister to me, the Father will honor him.” No doubt, Philip carried this positive message back to the inquirers.
14. While Jesus put the preaching work first in his life, what shows that he was balanced?
14 Though Jesus refused to be distracted from his main purpose of preaching the good news, he was not always thinking about work. He accepted at least one invitation to a wedding and even contributed to the joy of the occasion by miraculously turning water into wine. (John 2:2, 6-10) He also accepted invitations to evening meals with close friends and potential disciples. (Luke 5:29; John 12:2) More important, Jesus frequently bought out time for prayer, private reflection, and needed rest.
“THROW OFF EVERY WEIGHT”
15. What counsel did the apostle Paul give, and how did he set a fine example?
15 “Let us also throw off every weight,” wrote the apostle Paul, who likened the course of a dedicated Christian to an endurance race. (Read Hebrews 12:1.) Paul certainly practiced what he preached, giving up a promising career in Judaism that could have brought him wealth and fame. He focused on “the more important things” and slaved in God’s service, traveling back and forth between Syria, Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Judea. “Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead, I am pressing on toward the goal for the prize,” wrote Paul regarding his hope of everlasting life in heaven. (Phil. 1:10; 3:8, 13, 14) Taking full advantage of his singleness, Paul succeeded in being in “constant devotion to the Lord without distraction.”
16, 17. Whether single or married, how can we follow the example Paul set as a disciple of Christ? Relate an experience.
16 Like Paul, some servants of God choose to remain single so that they have fewer family responsibilities and can devote themselves to Kingdom service. (Matt. 19:11, 12) Married servants of God often have more extensive family responsibilities. But whether single or married, all can “throw off every weight” and serve God with as few distractions as possible. This may require cutting down on time-wasting habits and setting goals to increase the time spent in the service of God.
17 Consider a Welsh couple, Mark and Claire, each of whom entered the pioneer service after completing school and continued pioneering after they got married. “We were able to simplify our lives further by giving up our three-bedroom house and our part-time work so that we could enter the international construction work,” explains Mark. For the past 20 years, they have traveled throughout Africa, helping to build Kingdom Halls. Once, their personal funds dropped to 15 dollars, but Jehovah took care of them. “It gives us deep satisfaction,” says Claire, “to spend every day serving Jehovah. We have made so many friends along the way, and we lack nothing. The little that we have given up cannot be compared to the happiness that comes from serving Jehovah full-time.” Many full-time servants have had similar experiences. *
18. What questions might some need to consider?
18 What about you? What can you do if you detect that you no longer pursue Kingdom interests with the same enthusiasm because of unnecessary distractions? Perhaps the answer lies in making your personal Bible reading and study more productive. How can you do that? The next article will explain.
^ par. 17 See also the life story of Hadyn and Melody Sanderson in the article “Knowing What Is Right and Doing It.” (The Watchtower, March 1, 2006) They gave up a profitable business in Australia to enter full-time service. Read what happened after they ran out of money while serving as missionaries in India.