I grew up in the era when clothes were actually ironed and I was always intrigued when Mom would take a wet, wrinkled garment and, with the combination of the iron’s heat and her pressure transform the garment from an unacceptable to a wearable condition. Wanting to follow her model I would ask to “help.” She first taught me how to iron her embroidered dishtowels. The sets of seven gave the Home Manager guidelines for her week—wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday, mend on Wednesday, clean on Thursday, shop on Friday, cook on Saturday, and worship on Sunday. More importantly than the ironing skill Mom imparted, her servant’s heart challenged me to be excited about exhibiting Servanthood in my home and assimilate her homemaking skills. Though I am a Certified Family and Consumer Scientist by education and profession I learned the “how tos” of managing a home by assimilating what she modeled.
Mary and Martha, significant women who impact our Christian faith, offer a clear portrait of biblical Servanthood applied to the home. When you think of the Luke 10:38-42 description of Mary and Martha at first glance it appears that Martha’s active, extroverted personality casts her into the light of a natural servant. By definition Servanthood is defined as “making someone else successful. Mark 10:44-45 reminds us that whoever of you desires to be great is to be a servant and that our Lord Jesus set the example for Servanthood. Martha certainly fits that description. Thinking and acting quickly she welcomed Jesus and His disciples into her home (10:38). She definitely got things done and made things happen (10:40), both qualities of a strong servant. The passage also communicates that Martha is a reactor—rather than asking Mary to assist her she voiced her frustration to her guest of honor (10:40). How often do we react rather than stepping back from the situation and thinking through what is the biblical response to the situation? Martha offers both a positive model in her work ethic and a poor model in her reaction to someone she loves.
Mary, in contrast to this hurricane of hyperactivity, took advantage of her ability to spend time with her Lord, so that she would be better prepared to serve Him effectively in His absence. Her heart told her that her time with Him was limited and she wanted to maximize it. There would be plenty of time for tasks later. Luke 10:39 portrays Mary as sitting at Jesus’ feet and absorbing His teaching. The contrast between Mary and Martha teaches us important character qualities that we need to assimilate:
- Mary is resting at the Lord’s feet while Martha is restless.
- Mary worships while Martha worries.
- Mary is at peace while Martha’s panic level increases.
- Mary is sitting while Martha is stewing.
- Mary is listening while Martha is lashing out.
- Mary is commended by Jesus while Martha is confronted by Him.
Mary’s friendship with Jesus and her saturation with His words, allowed her to develop a spiritual insight and understanding of things which others did not see. This prepared her to model Servanthood that had long term results. Mark 14:6-9 teaches us that
- Mary appeared to be the only one who realized Jesus’ time on earth was drawing to an end.
- Anything she could do for Him was more important than anything else.
- Quietly listening to His words helped Mary mature into a woman with significant spiritual insight.
- She became a woman who understood the secrets of God.
- Once she understood the secrets she knew precisely what to do and when to do it.
Mary and Martha teach us two ways of managing life. Less we totally discredit Martha we must acknowledge that her management style clearly gets things done and makes things happen. A question to ask, however, is “what were the eternal benefits of Martha’s activities?” Perhaps if she had been willing to sit with Mary both then could have served together, thus sharpening one another. I am always reminded of the poignant message of Charles Hummel’s small but convicting book The Tyranny of the Urgent when I read about Mary and Martha (Intervarsity Press). His concluding words remind us that “If we continue in the word of our Lord, we are truly His disciples. And He will free us from the tyranny of the urgent; free us to do the important, which is the will of God (p. 15).
Mary teaches us that when we choose to spend time out of sight and close to Jesus significant results can occur:
- We read and study God’s Word.
- We linger in sweet prayer.
- We commit to memory His life changing Word.
- We meditate on things of the Lord.
- We view life’s circumstances through the Servanthood lens.
- We are ready for each day’s special assignment.
- Our efforts potentially have eternal impact.
Time regularly spent with God bears fruit that only grows in the shade of His presence. Consider these thought-provoking words of nineteenth century Scottish lecturer Henry Drummond in his classic work, The Greatest Thing in the World: “Talent develops itself in solitude; the talent of prayer, of faith, of meditation, of seeing the unseen.” (p.44)
I began this post with the Home Manager Guidelines embroidered on my Mother’s dishtowels. Though you may not choose their order to manage your home, may I encourage you to use these spiritual Home Management Guidelines for your week as you focus of cultivating Mary’s servant’s heart? Oh, and by the way, my Mother’s name was Mary. She daily modeled a servant’s heart!
Spiritual Home Management Guidelines
Lord, help me cleanse me from pride so that I may serve you with perfect humility throughout the week (James 4:6, 1Peter 5:5).
Tuesday— Ironing Day
Dear Lord, help me to be willing to allow you to use the heat, steam, and pressure of your iron to remove the wrinkles of prejudice I tend to collect so that I may see the beauty in others (James 2:1-13).
Dear heavenly Father, please help me mend my ways so I will model a servant’s heart for others (Mark 10:44-45; 1 Corinthians 11:1).
Thursday— Cleaning Day
Lord Jesus, help me to dust out all the many faults I am hiding in the secret corners of my heart (Psalm 19:12, 1 John 1:8-9).
Friday —Shopping Day
Gracious heavenly Father, please give me your grace to shop wisely so that I will perceive that my purchases are “good” (Proverbs 31:18, 27).
Strengthen me, my Savior, so I may simmer a large crock pot of brotherly love and bake a loaf of the sweet bread of human kindness to serve with it (Colossians 3:12-17; Hebrews 13:1-2).
Sunday— The Lord's Day
Loving heavenly Father, I have prepared my earthly home for You and those who enter it. Please cleanse my heart so that it is daily an appropriate dwelling place for You (Psalm 139; 2 Timothy 2:21).