2 Simple Habits to Keep Martha Merry

Do you ever come to the end of your day, week, or year and wonder if you’ve wasted your time? Could what we call important in the day-to-day be robbing us of the best? I don’t want to come to the end of my life and learn I missed what really matters. How do we know what’s the most important?

MM13Detail_Greg McKeown, author of the book Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, suggests an interesting barometer for evaluating our decisions. Consider the people who will gather around your deathbed. That relatively small group identifies the important people in your life. Now evaluate your choices by how they affect them.

I found McKeown’s thoughts to be a great clarifier. Too often, I’ve let the wrong people and activities absorb my time and focus.

McKeown also pointed out that the word priority was singular until the 1900s. “It meant the very first or prior thing.”[1] Now we speak of priorities (plural). How do we have many “first” things?

His words reminded me of Jesus’ discussion with Martha the day she was “worried and bothered about so many things.” You can read about the scene in Luke 10:38-42.

Martha was preparing a meal for at least fourteen men. She assumed her sister would help. But Mary wanted to listen to Jesus.

Finally, Martha could stand it no more. Clanging pots hadn’t gotten their attention, so she stomped into the room and wagged her finger at Jesus. In so many words, she told Him if He cared about what was fair He’d make Mary help her. Whoa! Not a pretty scene. Yet to be honest, at times I’ve felt like Martha.

We know Martha loved Jesus. She’d welcomed Him and His hungry disciples into her home. But the distraction of many things blurred her focus. She stopped serving and began to boss her Lord and her sister. Listen to the Lord’s gentle rebuke:

41 Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary” (Luke 10:41-42, NASB).

What is the one thing that comes before all else? Jesus tells us in another Scripture: 37  “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39, NASB).

To love God comes first. When we practice that, the second naturally follows.

Martha opened her home in love, but her work pulled her into another goal. She let her service draw her away from love and into production.

It takes effort to keep the first thing first. Martha learned and continued to open her home and serve but with a change in attitude. Her change set the stage for Mary’s extravagant display of love for Jesus before He faced the cross (John 12:2-7).

Two habits daily freshen my focus. I start each day asking God to speak to me. Then I do one or more of the following:

In the evening, I journal. I keep it short but include thanksgivings and petitions. These two simple habits remind me of what matters most and help me stay on course. They also keep this Martha merry!

What is your one priority? How do you keep it first?

Click here to comment.


Debbie W. Wilson

[1] Greg McKeown, Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, p. 16

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  1. Ann

    That’s something I’d never really thought about in quite this way – that a priority in essence must be singular! How can you have numerous first things! That is truly food for thought, Debbie. I tend to be a Martha more often than a Mary but I’m still working on that. I can feel the difference when I haven’t had my time with the Lord first thing for whatever reason and I have worked hard to guard that time. Right now during Lent I’m reading a chapter a day in a beautiful book I read last year about Christ’s final hours called Paid in Full. Usually I am either reading in a devo or recently the Passion Version of Proverbs and Psalms which is beautiful and then journal as the Lord speaks.

    • Debbie Wilson

      That was a new thought to me too, Ann. It reminded me of other passages that warn against being double-minded or to be single-eyed. We can only serve one master… Your reading sounds wonderful. I always enjoy your thoughts. Thanks for sharing these resources.

  2. Ann Johnson

    The sentence ” She let her service draw her away from love and into production.” really struck home with me. I never want that to happen; however, I know it does. I don’t want to be a “clanging symbol”. I want all I do to be in and for Love. Thanks, Debbie. And thank you Lord for the gentle reminder.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Me too, Ann. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Keita Ikeda

    And why are these important?
    1) Because He created in his own image (thus we’re created to do that) (Gen 3)
    2) And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true. (Rev 21).

    If we’re being obedient, we’re part of making all things new by restoring those around us to Love God and love our neighbor. Jesus paid the price so that this can happen.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Yes, He did! Thanks, Keita.

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