The recent gospel story of Martha and Mary (LK 10: 38-42) is one of the most powerful and profound expressions of an eternal struggle many of us face on a daily basis. People grapple with their ‘job descriptions’ every single day, just like Martha was doing.
Quite often our job description is about as secular as it can get. We focus on what we need to focus on to succeed in this world. The next day, however, we sway toward a crooked, but hopefully sincere, struggle to define our ‘eternal’ job as saving our own souls and those of others while serving and loving God and others.
While a certain amount of shuffling between a secular and our sacred, eternal job description is allowed in our daily pilgrimage through this world toward God, we must always take stock and adjust. We need to maintain the overall direction of our efforts – facing due Heaven and not due earth. What are the signs that we are straying toward earth more than toward Heaven in this daily struggle?
In Luke’s gospel, Martha feels burdened by her earthly tasks and complains to Our Lord. Whatever earthly loads we may be carrying, feeling burdened certainly seems par for the course regarding all of them. Earthly tasks carry physical, emotional, psychological, social, financial, practical, and many other kinds of burdens. As physical beings, we will certainly feel those burdens on a regular basis.
Our burdens can surely tire, frustrate, and exasperate us. While it is both normal and expected that we will all feel these strains from time to time, there is a high correlation between our eternal job description and just how much and how regularly we are feeling such burdens. Those with an earthly focus will tend to feel more and increasingly burdened by these loads because earthly burdens tend to seem all-consuming and endless.
In fact, earthy burdens sometimes seem insurmountable and pointless. They can overwhelm us. We can feel lost as to how to handle them, and wonder how they can possibly lead us to any good. A couple consumed and obsessed with buying a home, for example, may pull themselves in all directions trying to save for their goal. They can even lose hope that they will ever achieve it in the light of their difficulties.
Isolation and Abandonment
Martha also expressed resentment that Our Lord did not care about her plight. Martha felt she was being left all alone to deal with her burden. Once we become distracted or lost in an earthly focus, however, we measure and judge according to the dictates and standards of this world and not of God. Negative, earthly feelings such as resentment, anger, bitterness, and jealousy creep in. These secular standards and measures tell us that we are getting the short end of the stick and even being treated unfairly by God and others. Ironically, we will feel isolated and abandoned by God and others precisely because our self-obsession and warped self-pity will not allow us to find fulfillment or joy in focusing on the needs of others.
It is easy to see that Martha was only focused on herself in this situation. She was feeling unfairly treated and did not care to see anything other than that view of the situation. Martha even went as far as to judge and question Our Lord’s stance in all of this! Do we not do the same when we pray for something and then resent it when we feel our prayers are not answered?
Enticing Others to Our Mistake
Martha’s resentment and frustration led her to ask Our Lord to make Mary join her in her mistake! I have often read that one of the devil’s greatest delights in pushing us to sin is successfully convincing us to join in his mistake of rejecting God. Misery loves company, and Martha’s self-obsession leads her to demand that Our Lord order Mary to make the same mistake that she has made. This warped delusion of self and righteousness goes as far as pretending that one’s foolishness is actually one’s enlightenment and that others should follow one’s “light.”
Our Lord tells Martha that she is worried and anxious about pointless things that will not ultimately amount to a hill of beans to her eternity. We stray from the path to Our Lord to the extent that we seek our treasure among things that do not lead us to him. Washing dishes and making beds are not inherent evils. Fixing the car and installing a new garage door opener are not inherently bad. Fixing the air conditioning and paying our bills are not superficial and useless tasks. However, while we should focus on and accomplish these things as we can, we must never reach the point of worrying and obsessing over these tasks and duties as if they are all that matters. Such worry and obsession only pushes God to the background for another day.
Where is God to You?
When we become fixated with things of this world over what matters to heaven, we tend to push heaven to the background and even change how, and even if, we see God at all. If you see God as some sugar daddy who will come to your rescue whenever you need Him, you have lost the proper place of God in your life. Frankly, I am not sure which is worse: forgetting God or distorting what God is. If God is not found in your preoccupation or consideration of some issue or burden, then perhaps you are mired in an overly earthly focus.
The story of Martha and Mary reminds us that we have a daily choice to embrace God or this earth. Too many times, we become so wrapped up in accomplishing what this world expects or even what we think this world expects that we forget what God expects from us. While doing our best to fulfill our tasks and duties in this world is important, we can never allow those tasks and duties to displace God as the center of our lives and focus.
Always place God first, place your earthly burdens before Him, and trust that He will guide you through these struggles!