By Ann Boyd

I Need Help

Visiting with Mary and Martha, part 4

Books to read. Papers to write. Classes to prepare for. Clients to meet with. And just next week, there will likely be family — functional or dysfunctional — who would appreciate some undivided attention. How will it all get done? Is there anyone who can help with this situation? Let's see what Martha finds out.

As always, let’s begin with the text:

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” — Luke 10.38-42 (NRSV)

Maybe we need a few more of these at the party. And less of some other stuff.

I need help.

Martha is clearly having trouble. Things are not going smoothly in the domestic arena, and she needs a few extra hands. There is work that needs to be done, and she feels the burden fully. We’ve all been in this situation, and many of us have responded like Martha did — with a bit of panic, blame, and exasperation.
But what if, instead of complaining about Mary, Martha had said, “Lord, I am having trouble. I need help!” Perhaps she could have even gone on to say, “I am distracted by my tasks, but I want to listen too!” What would have happened if she had presented the problem to Jesus while leaving the solution up to him? What would he have done?
This is such a subtle shift in attitude, but a very important one. It is something we talk with our children about often, the different between a petulant “I don’t have a spoon!” and a polite “Could you please hand me a spoon?” The words can even be the same, but the tone of voice speaks volumes. I watch for this in my own speech as well, and it all starts with my state of being. Do I trust that I’m being heard and cared for? Do I believe that others are on my team? Or do I feel that everyone is against me? Even if I happen to be struggling in a hostile environment, I still have an Advocate who is on my side, watching and helping. 
What would it have been like if Martha’s deepest self believed that Jesus wanted to help her? What if she had presented her troubles to him? Perhaps he would have helped her reorganize her priorities and make a new plan (“Peanut butter sandwiches for all!”). Perhaps he would have invited her to sit down for a few minutes with a glass of wine, knowing that she was tired and thirsty. Perhaps he would have even gotten up himself, instructing his disciples to follow his counter-cultural example into the kitchen. We can’t know what would have happened then…but we can find out what will happen today when we ask him for help.
Where do I need to say, “Lord, I am in trouble. I need help!”
Am I able to give up my own plans in favor of listening to Jesus?


This is the fourth of five posts at The Well by Ann Boyd on the topic of Mary and Martha. You'll find the rest of them here:

This was originally published as part of a series of twelve reflections on the story of Mary and Martha at Ann's blog. If you’d like to read the whole series, start with the first post, where they are listed in full at the end of the piece. Copyright 2014 Ann Boyd. Used with permission.

About the Author

Ann is the Women Scholars and Professionals Podcast host and the interim editor for The Well. She has worked for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship since 1997, exploring her interests in community, spiritual formation, and writing. Ann has a BM in Music Education from Northwestern University and lives in Chicago, Illinois with one husband, two spunky teenage daughters, and three snuggly cats. You’ll often find Ann baking sweet treats in the kitchen while listening to a podcast or audiobook.

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