Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

The Danger of Sunday Morning Church . . .

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 01 December 2009

“Martha was busy for Jesus,
and that left her too busy to be with Jesus.”
~ Jon Walker
Growing with Purpose: Connecting with God Every Day

I haven't seen the government warnings yet, but there are some very real risks for Christians who attend church on Sunday mornings. Seriously! See, for a lot of us Christians, church has just become a habit -- an event on our busy, busy calendar – we come, we sing, we worship, we listen (hopefully!) to Truth from God's Word which explains life: our wretched condition before God, how to remedy that, how we should live, what we are supposed to do, and how we are to react to the situations which confront us. And we all pay attention. We are encouraged. We are stirred. We nod our heads in agreement. We are spiritually fed. Sometimes we even leave on a spiritual high. Right?.

Then Monday morning arrives and we go back to our families, our work, our business, our classes, our kitchen, our homes -- the plain-old, everyday circumstances of life -- and we forget all about our spiritual high of twenty-four hours earlier! Right?
It puts us in spiritual jeopardy!

This is precisely the dilemma presented by the account of Martha in the Gospels. . .

. . . Mary and Martha had been to the synagogue together that day and evidently Jesus had been teaching there. It was of course unlike any church service that you or I would attend. But surely they did leave with something similar to that spiritual high that we've experienced at our own churches. It had to have been an exciting morning when Jesus Himself began to open the Scriptures!

But then Mary and Martha went home. And guess who came for dinner that day? JESUS Himself was their guest! Martha went into the kitchen and completely and utterly forgot everything and all she had learned in synagogue. She began to stew and fret about how to get dinner ready. She bustled around, and couldn't find things, and spilled the coffee, and scorched the potatoes, and burned her fingers. She got all upset, and distracted, and then finally came bursting into the living room and blamed the whole mess on Jesus.
. . . and I totally get this. Martha was clearly a kitchen-nut. I am a kitchen-nut who blames others for the less-than-perfect condition of things in my precious kitchen. We could examine all this kitchen-nuttery and that would be fun -- comparing notes and such. But that's not the point here.
Here's what Martha cried out:

"Lord, why didn't you tell my sister to come out and help me? It's all your fault!"
~Luke 10:40

And do you remember how Jesus replied?

"Martha, Martha, you are full of care. You've gotten everything out of perspective. Life is out of focus for you, and you've let these insignificant little trivialities mount up to a tremendous problem.
But only one thing is necessary. . ."

~ Luke 10:41-42

What is that one thing? What is the one fundamental thing which is necessary?

The one thing is to see things the way they really are!
Really . . . Did Jesus come to observe Martha's culinary genius?
Or did He come to fellowship and commune with the women?

The one thing is to face reality and to deal with things realistically -- to know and understand and live-out what the Apostle Paul came to realize: "For me, to live is Christ!"
Is it realistic for Martha to blame Jesus for her short-temper and less-than-perfect kitchen skills?
If Martha were "living for Christ," would she blame Him for anything?

Martha's fault was not that she chose to celebrate so grand-a-guest by serving a feast. Her fault was that she threw her entire soul into the process and grew encumbered by the task. In doing that she forgot JESUS! The only thing on her mind and her heart was her service.

This happens a lot in churches. . . ever notice at Christmastime how the decorating or the children's program or the live nativity or the [you-name-the-program] takes away from the real meaning. I've witnessed it first-hand. It breaks your heart when you see it from reality-perspective.

It is way easier to serve and work and get caught up in our tasks for Jesus (or our church) than to simply commune with HIM. . .

As a counselor, I believe this explains the phenomena of the perfectionist spot-on.
But that's for another time

We ought to be Mary and Martha in one! After all, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:17)

"Mary has chosen that good portion.
She has taken the time to sit and listen and get her perspectives straight,
to put things back into focus, and I'm not going to take it away from her," Jesus said.

~Luke 10:42

If this "good portion" is not the basis of your operations in your family, your work, your business, your classes, your kitchen, your homes, your church, then you are off to the wrong start in the Kingdom of God. And of course everything is going to go awry! What's the point of going to church on Sunday morning in the first place?

If you are familiar with the beautiful symbols of the Old Testament, you can easily interpret this passage:

"The LORD said to Moses, "Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil
from beaten olives for the lamp, that a light may be kept burning continually.
Outside the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall keep it in order
from evening to morning before the Lord continually; it shall be a statute for
ever throughout your generations. He shall keep the lamps in order upon the
lampstand of pure gold before the LORD continually."

~Leviticus 24:1-4

Pure olive oil brought by the people was to be the fuel which produced the light of the candelabra. It was to burn continuously and it was especially not be allowed to go out at night. From evening to morning Aaron was responsible to keep the light going to illuminate the tabernacle with that light placed on the golden candlestick.

There is nothing
more desperately needed for today's Christians than to personally and individually expose our hearts and minds and thoughts to the LIGHT continuously. (Not just when surrounded by other Christians in church on Sunday and/or church functions and programs throughout the week.)

What is our LIGHT today
-- some four-thousand years after the time of Aaron and the golden lampstand? It is Christ Jesus and the Truth of His Word; and we need to expose our hearts and minds and thoughts to it continuously. We simply cannot leave it at church [synagogue] and go on with our tasks like Martha did.

When we do this and consistently practice looking at life as HE tells us -- not as the world outside of Sunday morning church tells us -- and not as our feelings tell us -- we will learn how to be both Mary and Martha in one!

The Apostle Paul understood the habit of church. He understood religiosity. But when he found Christ, his passion was ignited in a whole new way -- he learned how to be Mary and Martha in one:

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body."
~Philippians 1:21-24

"Whatever you do whether you eat or drink, do unto the glory of God"
~1 Corinthians 10:31

Martha was busy and hurried,
Serving the friend divine,
Cleansing the cups and platters,
Bringing the bread and wine;
But Martha was careful and anxious
Fretted in thought and in word,
She had no time to be sitting
While she was serving the Lord,
For Martha was "cumbered with serving,
Martha was "troubled" with "things"---
Those that would pass with the using---
She was forgetting her wings.

Mary was quiet and peaceful,
Learning to love and to live.
Mary was hearing His precepts,
Mary was letting Him give---
Give of the riches eternal,
Treasures of mind and of heart;
Learning the mind of the Master,
Choosing the better part.

Do we ever labor at serving
Till voices grow fretful and shrill,
Forgetting how to be loving,
Forgetting how to be still?
Do we strive for "things" in possession,
And toil for the perishing meat,
Neglecting the one thing needful---
Sitting at Jesus' feet?

Service is good when he asks it,
Labor is right in it's place,
But there is one thing better,
Looking up in his face;
There is so much he can tell us,
Truths that are precious and deep;
This is the place where he wants us,
Things are the things we can keep.
~Annie Johnson Flint

~ Esthermay V. Bentley-Goossen
© 2009 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife

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This installment of InOtherWords is hosted by Debbie
on her blog, Heart Choices


Debbie said...

Esthermay, I could sit at your feet and learn! You make some great points. I may need to go back and write down a few of your personal quotes regarding this one.

Thanks for contributing your valuable wisdom as a Christian and also your counseling background.


Barbara said...

I completely agree with Debbie. You are such a gifted teacher and writer. I had never looked at the Martha story quite this way. They really did just come from "church." I am SO guilty of being Martha on sunday afternoons.

Wonderful lessons here. I especially like your side-comment about church Christmas programs. Sad, isn't it?

Kate said...

AWESOME! I love how you've tied that old testament tradition of the continually burning oil into the Mary & Martha story. I too never saw it from this perspective. I NEVER EVER EVER want that LIGHT to go out in my life because I'm a perfectionist and that is for another time ;-)

I love your blog so much. I agree with Debbie too. It is full of wisdom that is deeper than most light-hearted blogs out there. THANK YOU for that!

love ya

kalopoieo said...

I've always found it odd that folks see things from an either Mary/Good or Martha/Bad point of view and never the two shall meet. You've done a nice job of showing that we are to both rest in HIM and work for HIM and it is indeed the heart choice of how that work is done.

Nice to see other readers comment on what a wonderful teacher you really are. Keep up the good work. You are a precious worker in His Kingdom and I so appreciate your heart for others to know His WORD and His WILL.

Kristen said...

thank you so much for sharing this! This is beautiful!

Joan said...


Ben said...

"There is nothing more desperately needed for today's Christians than to personally and individually expose our hearts and minds and thoughts to the LIGHT continuously. (Not just when surrounded by other Christians in church on Sunday and/or church functions and programs throughout the week.)
This is such a profound statement. We called them "Chameleon Christians" in seminary and churches are full of them.

Good Writing.

Denise said...

Great post sweetie.

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

I like the balanced perspective you offer on work vs. devotion. I, too, think work is important and necessary. We just need to make Jesus our focus, rather than adopting a "poor me" attitude, which always seems to happen when we don't spend enough time with Him!

The poem you shared is great, too!

sharon said...

Never read a devotional with quite this take on the workaholic Martha. Completely true to Scripture, I like the idea of being both a Mary and a Martha working as Paul instructs:
"Whatever you do whether you eat or drink, do unto the glory of God"
(1 Corinthians 10:31)
Attitude is everything. Heart change is all Martha needed.
AND I'm going to cut and paste that poem. I like it.

Rachel Wojnarowski said...

I was reading some blogs today and stumbled across your site. It is amazing how God works because I've had Mary and Martha on the brain for the last two weeks. Literally! Thank you for your wonderful clarification of what Martha was really missing. And for all the Scripture!

Rachel M. said...

Thanks for the great post! I've been running around for several weeks, trying to get "everything" done, but what I really want to do is just to sit down and rest at Jesus' feet. Thanks for reminding me that I can do both!

Kathryn @ Expectant Hearts said...

Oh, Martha & Mary at once! I LOVE that.. Thank you for this amazing post and perspective!

MiPa said...

Esthermay I loved this! It is so true that we need to be both Mary and Martha--with our priorities on him in our service and our learning. Beautiful post. Have a blessed day!

Joan Carr said...

Amazing, and so very timely for me today. I have been hustling and bustling and have let my focus be on me and not on CHRIST.

Crown of Beauty said...

Dear Esthermay,

I discovered your blog because you first discovered mine, many months ago.

Yours is a blog I visit when I want to eat a really good spiritual meal. You have probably heard it said many times before, but it bears repeating: you have good substance on your blog.

I appreciate the fact that you do not write haphazardly. Your posts are always well thought out, and the connections that you make just make my heart beat faster.

Like the pure olive oil... and your heart searching question, What is our light for our lamps today?

I just came from another blog who had a post about Mary the mother of Jesus. And I had commented that my three favorite women in the bible are the three Marys -- Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Bethany being the other two.

So you can understand how I took every word of your post to heart. I love the heart of Mary of Bethany, how she had chosen the one thing that was important...

But I agree with you, I do not just want to be a contemplative Mary, I also want to be a Martha...but my service must flow from my heart.

I am glad I dropped by today. Please know that I appreciate the way you take time to arrange your blog entries, with just the right pictures, and poems, and verses... everything to me is a work of art. Sorry if I never commented much in the past, but this time, I just wanted you to know.


Edie said...

I wholeheartedly agree! "To live is Christ!" In every part of our daily living we should be aware of the connection to God. If we "pray without ceasing", talk to God all day long, then our mind is stayed on Him and we can be both Mary and Martha as you say.

I always enjoy your thoughts Esthermay!

Rich blessings on you and yours!

Oh, can I ask which bible translation you use? I've never seen these scriptures translated like this. Just curious. :)

lori said...

You know I sit in awe of this wonderful post girl! I "walked with Martha" earlier this year,


...I can't wait to have a sit down with her someday, you know compare notes...I have a feeling that we came from similar molds and struggled with the same things. Hence the lessons in Martha are so darn practical to me in my life...

gifted you are...gifted and it's what we HAVE to think about...it's not just about Sunday and bagging it all the rest of the week....it's about pursuing it...all week...

ahhhh yes...see what I miss when I miss!

bless you girlfriend! geesh, if only ya lived next door...think of how much I'd learn!


Anonymous said...

Hi my dear sister. You have written a wonderful post. Never quite thought about it that way. I wrote a post about Martha and Mary in my blog a few weeks ago. Thanks for the challenge. God bless

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