Measuring Your Motives

By Nancy K. Brown

I've always been fascinated with the biblical story of Martha. No matter how many times I read the account, my sympathies seem to be drawn to the hard-working older sister. I guess that's because I'm a lot like her.

In her quest to meet the day-to-day needs of those around her, Martha put everything she had into her tasks. I can almost imagine what it must have been like on the day Jesus came for a visit. Martha probably planned the perfect meal and then spent hours at the market choosing just the right items to complete her menu.

No one could call this lady lazy, and nothing was left undone when Martha's hand was in it. Her energy and resourcefulness are admirable. But even with her outstanding abilities, the biblical account reveals a glaring shortcoming in this otherwise meticulous homemaker-and it's one we all share.

In her struggle to make everything perfect, something happened to Martha. Wading through her long list of chores, she lost her focus and began to despise the very work that had once brought joy. Instead of her work being motivated by the desire to help others, she succumbed to self-pity and resentment.

Poor Martha. Overcome by responsibility, her fury raged and she lashed out at her sister, Mary, who chose to lay aside some of the mundane tasks to enjoy sitting and learning at the feet of Jesus. Most of us can certainly relate to Martha's frustration - after all, why should we be doing all the work? That's because we, too, get caught up in the duty of doing, and we forget the satisfaction that comes from simply listening to those we love.

As Martha mulled over her displeasure, she finally turned to the Lord in frustration and cried, "Don't you care?"

I must confess - I do the same thing.

Where do such negative attitudes come from? In most cases, they are the result of a motivation that has shifted from the desire to serve, to one that dwells on self and upon what others should be doing.

Martha's problem wasn't in the nature of her work. The problem was that her point of reference had become distorted, which, in turn, negatively affected her attitudes. With the change in attitude came a change in motivation and a change in outlook.

Like Martha, our lives can be filled with a long list of daily duties. But as we race along on the treadmill of life, we must guard against becoming like Martha, who forgot what was most important.

None of us will deny that a life defined by constant giving can be difficult. Nor will we deny that there are times when what we really want is to be left alone. And we need times of solitude, quiet times spent alone with God, so that He can replenish our spirits and refresh our hearts. If we don't make those times a priority, we will never have the strength and resilience necessary to meet the challenges of life, and our attitudes will easily deterioriate into negativity and self-pity.

Instead of loosing heart, as Martha did, let's keep a watchful eye on our emotions. Meeting the needs of others should be a joyful journey, not a burdensome bother. When frustrations arise and activities escalate, let's guard against selfish intentions and be careful to measure our motives. Finally, let's remember to follow Mary's example of making it a priority to consistently spend quiet time in the presence of our Shepherd, Jesus, who "restores our souls" (Psalm 23).

Nancy is a freelance writer and the public relations consultant based in Convoy, Ohio. She writes for several print and online publications. You can reach her at:


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