Is it really possible to accurately evaluate the condition of our hearts? What I mean is that it is far too simple to fool ourselves into thinking we are doing fine. We gauge our spiritual state by how we feel at the moment and justify our actions based on those feelings. The problem, of course, is that our feelings are an unreliable measure of our true condition. I ran across a story in the Gospel of Luke that, I think, can help us assess the condition of our spiritual lives. It’s the story of Martha and Mary, and in this story there are four words that reveal Martha’s heart.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, ESV)
“Lord, don’t you care.” These four words are a mind-boggling indictment of the character of Christ. Martha is actually accusing Jesus of thoughtlessness, of unkindness, almost of negligence. In the heat of the moment, she faults Him for abandoning her, misunderstanding her and being unwilling to look after her needs. She is frustrated with Him and disgruntled. And that is the most telling moment in this story. You see, she was merely trying to get some food together for the crowd in her house. All she was trying to do was serve Christ, but she was getting no help. “Why didn’t Jesus appreciate all she was trying to do for Him,” she probably thought to herself. So she lashes out at Him and sweeps her sister Mary into her rant. Everybody else is at fault in her mind and it’s just not fair and God doesn’t care about me!
Most of us would not be so bold as to speak so directly and accusingly to Christ. Some of us do. But I have no doubt that whether we verbalize our feelings so directly or not, most of us have probably felt this way. In the midst of our service to Him, we feel that our efforts are not fully supported or appreciated by the Lord or by anyone else.
Jesus’ response to Martha cuts to the heart of her problem. “You are anxious and troubled about many things, but only one thing is necessary.” You see, it wasn’t what Martha was doing that was the problem, it was her priorities. She was acting on her own strength, her own plans, her own expectations. She thought she was serving Jesus, when, in fact, she was pursuing her own plans and her own ideas of what that meant. This lead to anxiety. And it lead to anger. And it lead to being disgruntled. And it lead to lashing out. She was distracted by all her activity instead of listening for His priorities. That’s what Mary was doing.
So my point is not that we should all be sitting in a monastery or convent, only praying and reading the Bible. The fact is that there is a lot of “stuff” to get done on a daily basis. There are a lot of practical, day-to-day activities that need to be done. But it’s how we do those things that matters. In the midst of our activity are we missing out on those moments of connection with Him. Do we let Him in to our daily lives, as we drive here and there, as we mow the lawn or do the dishes? We don’t need to be “anxious and troubled,” instead we need to keep focused on the one necessary thing – listening for His voice. So if you find yourself saying or thinking those four words – Lord, don’t you care? – stop and regroup. Have you lost connection with Him? Have you gotten distracted and anxious about all activities in your life? Are you discontented and lashing out? Are you pursuing your own ideas of what the Christian life should look like? Of course He cares! We just need to slow down long enough to hear Him say it to us.