Thoroughly Modern Martha

Have you ever seen the musical thoroughly modern Millie? It’s about this gal who moves to the city and swiftly learns to enjoy all the things that people are “supposed” to enjoy as a part of roaring 20s society. Julie Andrews is amazing as usual. Cute and entertaining. Bottom line, following what people say you should do, be, and love doesn’t always help you to know what it is you love.

As I was reading about Martha in the book of Luke the image of Millie came to mind. Martha was making many of the same mistakes Millie did. She was looking to culture to advise her identity. While Martha was much closer to the mark then Millie she was still missing out on the fullness that God had for her by taking the measuring stick of cultural norm and holding it up to herself, and others.

Now, lets not make the first mistake of judging Matha too harshly. We like to think, “what a slave driver. She needs to chill out! I know women like her. Wound tight! I’m not like that.” Or the other extreme of the pendulum. We make the excuse, “Jesus wasn’t rebuking Martha. He was only saying she needed to be more understanding of Mary. As long as I don’t judge others according to the high standard I have for myself I’m fine pursuing what I think is best.”

The truth is we are all Martha everytime we read a magazine and want to look more like that woman, or wish our husband was different, or loath our home because it’s not like that blog, or think less of our sister because she doesn’t parent like we do. Martha’s story is a hard one to swallow when we realize that the cultural norm she was a part of was one based on scripture. Her measuring stick was Proverbs 31! She got her purpose from the life of Eve and Sarah and measured her conduct accordingly. In reality that’s what we should all be doing… to a certain extent.

Jesus looks into the self righteous heart of Martha and calls it like he sees it. Loving her hard working servants heart, he calls her out for how her actions don’t match. They reveal a gap. Paul says the law revealed his sin and he died (Romans 7:9). Martha’s heart was dead as she tried her hardest to live the life needed according to the law. What she needed was the life that only Jesus could give her. Her servant’s heart could only feel fulfilled in the service of Christ and thru peace in the gospel. Later, Jesus asks her at the death of her brother (John 11) her’s is one of the first confessions of the diety of Christ. He looked right through the obviousness of her sinful judgement to her striving heart and showed her the better way to him.

So what are the myriad of things that are standing in our way? What standards have we set up for ourselves? They may be bad things like the approval of others, negative body image, or plain old lies. They might be good things like the clothes, fashionable friends and winning personality that Millie was after. They might be very good things like the good deeds and righteous life that Martha was after. Ultimately, if there is anything that is standing between us and our relationship with Jesus we need to “choose a better way.”
That’s what I’m after. To bring all things into accordance with Christ! That’s what I’m focused on here. Maybe we can work this out together…

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