Category Archives: mary and martha

(becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 4: hands that shed innocent blood

There are six things the LORD hates,
   seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.  (Proverbs 6:16-19)

Hands that Shed Innocent Blood

Given that murder is the ultimate bloodshed, it’s important to remember John’s words: “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.”  –1 John 3:15

This is a powerful statement, especially given the Biblical definitions of “love” and “hate.”  The rest of this post will be written with John’s definition of “murder” in mind.

I think the questions about this item can be broken into two categories.  First, do I actively participate in this sin:

1. Do I intentionally harm innocent people?

Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you.  (Proverbs 23:10-11)

Remember that God is the Defender of the innocent.  If you’re not the innocent in a given situation, who is your defender?

2. Do I seek to serve myself despite knowing that my actions will hurt others?

A wicked man accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the course of justice.  (Proverbs 17:23)

Are you willing harm others for the right price?  And remember, the “price” isn’t necessarily money.  It could be attention, preferential treatment, accolades, etc.  What is your price?

3. Do I seek to serve myself without considering how this might affect others?

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

It’s so easy for us to take action thoughtlessly.  We don’t set out to hurt others, we just don’t care if we do – at least not as much as we care about our own interests.  In the verse above, God asks us to “consider others” and to look “to the interests of others.”  He’s asking us to actively concern ourselves with how our actions affect those around us – and those far away.

The second category of questions deals with passively committing this sin:  Even if I’m not actively shedding innocent blood, am I doing anything to stop those who are?  And am I applying tourniquets to the wounded?  Some questions to consider in this regard:

4. Do I look for ways to help and protect the innocent?

It is not good to punish an innocent man, or to flog officials for their integrity.  (Proverbs 17:26)

Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent — the Lord detests them both.  (Proverbs 17:15)

Seeking to right injustices can seem like an incredibly daunting task – and no one person can take up every worthy cause.  However, we should be asking God what cause(s) He wants us involved in.  (For advice about how to help without becoming overwhelmed by the problems in our world, click here: avoiding the superwoman complex.)

5. Do I look for ways to help those who are hurting?

Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.  (Proverbs 25:25)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

While some people are certainly more gifted at offering comfort to those who are hurting, we’re all capable of genuinely showing an interest in and a concern for other people.  Do you shy away from those opportunities?  Most of us wouldn’t let a man bleed to death, but many of us will watch a man grieve to death.

6. Do I stand up for those who need an advocate?

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

As we discussed above, God is the ultimate defender of the innocent — but He wants us to be involved in this work.  In many situations, this means actively opposing their oppressors.  In such cases, there is a temptation to fool ourselves into thinking that we can remain neutral.  We can’t.  In such cases, remaining “neutral” is just a cowardly attempt to abandon the weak to their oppressors without making ourselves look bad.  God is not fooled:

 10 If you falter in times of trouble,
how small is your strength!

 11 Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?  (Proverbs 24:10-12)

God is not neutral in such situations, and when He calls us to advocate for the innocent, He has called us to His side.  We can accept His call or reject it, but we can’t stay neutral.  God has chosen His side.  Which side are you on?

Challenge: This week, go beyond not actively shedding innocent blood, and ask God how you He would have you protect the innocent and bandage the wounded.

Next Week: a heart that devises wicked schemes

Last Week: a lying tongue, part 3c

Start of the Series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

Want to read more?

You know that annoying person you try to avoid?  Yeah, me too….: what to do about annoying people

Ready to ramp up your relationship with God?  Try: Quiet time OR Try: Constant Conversation

Feeling overwhelmed by all of your obligations?  Try: the superwoman complex or mary and martha

Can your marriage help the next generation?  I think so: why YOUR strong marriage matters to kids that aren’t yours

Is nagging our husbands really a problem?  Why I think it is: How culture is sabotaging our marriages

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

(becoming) a prayerful volunteer: the necessity of “no”

With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.  –Psalm 18:29

If, as we’ve been discussing, the needs around us are overwhelming and God wants us to use everything we have to serve Him and others, how do we avoid burnout?  How do I not get caught in the Martha trapFor some of you reading this, the willingness to serve God isn’t a problem.  Oftentimes many of us run into a different, though no less dangerous, obstacle to becoming the women God wants us to be: over-committing.

My instinct is to jump at opportunities, to come up with grand plans, basically to embody any number of clichéd warnings: Don’t put the cart before the horse, look before you leap, etc.  I would be a frazzled wreck (or worse), if I hadn’t had someone to remind me of God’s truths and promises in this area.

My husband has been my voice of reason in such instances.  What do you mean it’s not a good idea to volunteer to host 26 Brazilian teenagers for 10 days in our 2 bedroom house?  Why shouldn’t I volunteer to coordinate all Angel Tree gifts for our city when I’m a completely overwhelmed graduate student who won’t even be in town for the two weeks leading up to Christmas?  Why should I rethink committing to do a blog post every day during the Christmas season when we’re traveling and trying to see 879 family members?

My husband hasn’t told me not to do these things; he’s simply reminded me to check with God before I do.  I’ve been amazed by how many times I think I’m doing something for God when I haven’t even checked to see if it’s what He wants me to do. 

While it’s important to remember that with God we can move mountains, we can advance against a troop, we can scale a wall – we have to recognize that first part: with His helpGod doesn’t promise to bless plans He doesn’t make.  He doesn’t promise help for projects He didn’t approve.  In order to claim these promises of help that are all throughout the Bible, we have to be in God’s Will.

This, then, is how we avoid the Martha trap: we take our projects, our plans to God before we start on them.  This can be hard, especially when people want an answer right now and it seems like a good cause and you’re afraid you’ll look lazy or uninvolved or unhelpful or uncaring, etc., if you hesitate — or, worse yet, say no.  When you get concerned about this, think instead of looking unhelpful to God.  (“‘How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?’” John 5:44)  Be concerned about not caring about what He wants.  He knows if the opportunity before you is the best use of your time.  Trust Him with that decision.  If the person asking for your help is also trying to follow God’s will, he/she should understand your need to pray about the commitment before you make it.  But, ultimately, what matters is putting God first – His desires for us, His jobs for us, His opinion of us.

While it seems easier to insult God by not consulting with Him than it does to disappoint someone standing in front of us, we have to consider the damage we’re doing to our relationship with God.  Willfully refusing to do what God has asked us to (“in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight,” Proverbs 3:6) puts us in a dangerous place.  Seeking God’s will, though, puts us right where God wants us – by His side.  A much better place to be – no matter what anyone else might think of us.

I’d encourage you to consult God before each decision – “in all your ways” – even ones that don’t seem “important.”  I think a lot of what we take for granted, because it’s our schedule or routine, can become dangerous stumbling blocks in our walks with God.  What aspects of your regular routine and schedule do you take for granted as things you’re going to do?  Going to work?  Running errands?  Getting the kids dressed?  What if all of these moments were seen as opportunities for God to get and keep us on His right path?  I’m not saying we shouldn’t have defaults.  Should you go to work each day unless God tells you differently?  Yes, of course.  But when was the last time you asked Him?

Consider: Are there troops you’ve tried to advance against or walls you’ve tried to climb without God’s help?  What did you learn from those experiences?  Has God ever asked you to say “no” to something you thought you should say “yes” to?  How did that affect your relationship with God?  With the person you said “no” to?  Has God ever asked you to say “yes” to an opportunity that seemed overwhelming?  How did God help you over that wall?  (Please feel free to share below.)

I pray that as you seek His will more and more, He shows Himself strong enough to lift you over all the troops He sends you against.

 

Want to read more?

Try last Monday’s post: (becoming) a good steward: the superwoman complex

Here’s the start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward: “mine, mine, mine?”

Are you a worrier?  Then you might enjoy this post: (becoming) less of a worrier

Interested in discussions about how to be a godly wife?  Check out the Wife Series: (becoming) a more godly wife: why won’t he . . . . . . ?

Want to go deeper in your walk with Christ?  Click here for the start of the Fully Submitted Series: (becoming) fully submitted

Still basking in the glow of the Christmas season?  Click here for the start of the Christmas Posts: (becoming) peaceful

Want information about this blog?  Check out the About page or the first post.

(becoming) a good steward: the superwoman complex

Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.  –1 Chronicles 29:14b

 I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”  –Psalm 16:2

As promised, we’re using the same two verses from last week to continue our discussion this week.  One point of these verses, as we discussed, is to start acknowledging to a new degree that all of our gifts come from God —  and that loving God means using what He’s given us (tangible and intangible) for His glory, not our own. 

But these verses are also making a point about our limitations.  There will always be people you can’t help and needs you can’t meet.  If you spent every second of your time for the rest of your life working non-stop for others, you’d barely make a dent in even the local needs around you. 

Our response to this fact, however, shouldn’t be despair, shouldn’t be to throw up our hands and do nothing since we can’t do it all.  Instead, this fact should bring us to our knees.  We can’t handle all the problems around us, but God never intended us to. 

Oftentimes when we feel overwhelmed it’s either because we’ve taken on more than God wanted us to or because we’ve taken on the wrong things.  The number and scope of the needs around us shouldn’t paralyze us, but it also shouldn’t turn us into misguided Marthas

Instead, we should seek God’s guidance: Where is it, God, that you want to use me?  Maybe you’re not supposed to contribute a coat to this coat drive or give any food to the food pantry this week.  Maybe God is more interested in having you spend more time with your neighbors.  And maybe that’s because He wants you to find out what their materials needs are and help meet them – or maybe it’s because He knows that their real need is having someone to talk to.

I don’t know the specifics about what God wants from you.  But He does.  And I do know that He doesn’t want us making these decisions – in either direction – based on what we feel up to.

The needs around us are overwhelming and our instinct to help is good (and thus from God).  But God promises us His strength to do His will, not our will.  We shouldn’t be surprised when we make our own decisions and then don’t have His strength to meet our commitments.  (Or when we use all our strength to meet these commitments, and then, having used all our patience on others, snap at our kids and our husbands.)

This isn’t to say that what God asks us to do is never overwhelming; I think that, at first, most of what God asks us to do is overwhelming.  If it’s His will, though, He will equip us.  (But that’s a topic for next week!)

For today, ask God what it is He wants you to do with your time, talents, resources (all those things you listed last week).  You might be surprised by the needs He knows about that you never would have thought of!

Read the next post –> (becoming) a prayerful volunteer: the necessity of “no”

 

Want to read more?

Here’s the start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward: “mine, mine, mine?”

Are you a worrier?  Then you might enjoy this post: (becoming) less of a worrier

Interested in discussions about how to be a godly wife?  Check out the Wife Series: (becoming) a more godly wife: why won’t he . . . . . . ?

Want to go deeper in your walk with Christ?  Click here for the start of the Fully Submitted Series: (becoming) fully submitted

Still basking in the glow of the Christmas season?  Click here for the start of the Christmas Posts: (becoming) peaceful

Want information about this blog?  Check out the About page or the first post.

POST #3: (becoming) fully submitted, Part 2

In the last post, we talked about putting God in front of everything else in our lives Today, we’re going to look, specifically, at giving him the first fruits of our time/energy.  Below are some questions that should help us start evaluating this area.

1. What do I spend my time/energy on?  (Really think about each moment of your day.  Even the mundane stuff.)

2. How much of my time/energy do I give to God and God alone?  (That is, how much time do you have with just God.  Not prayers-on-the-go (although these are good).  How much time do you spend just fellowshipping with God?)

3. During how much of my other time am I in communication with God?  (How often during the day do you seek God’s guidance?)

4. From what areas of my time/energy have I excluded God?  (This is a hard question to think about, but I think it’s an important one.)  When during my day am I most disconnected from God?  During what activities do I least seek God?

5. What part of my time/energy is used in a way that I haven’t consulted with God about?  (I think this is another important one.  What commitments or routines do you have that you haven’t asked God about?  What do you take for granted as “part of your day” that God might want changed?)

Of course, all of these questions have to be answered prayerfully.  If you’re open to it, God will reveal areas where He’d like to be more involved in your life.

Although it can seem hard to carve out time with God from our busy schedules, time with God is never wasted.  Consider this scene from Jesus’s visit to His good friends’ (Mary, Martha, and Lazarus) house (Luke 10:38-42):

 As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

So much is going on in this little passage, but for now, we’ll focus on how the two women were using their time: Martha was making preparations for an incredibly important guest (and His crowd) — I think if Jesus were coming to visit us, most of us would be very busy with preparations.  And think of all those last minute things that Martha was probably scrambling to get done during this passage!

Mary, however, is sitting at Jesus’s feet, listening.  Not helping Martha.  And Jesus commends Mary’s choice to leave all the work to her sister!?  Not exactly.  Jesus commends Mary’s choice to spend time with Him.  He doesn’t want Martha to be left with all the work — He wants her to spend time with Him, too.

If I were Martha, I’m pretty sure my jaw would drop when He said Mary had made a better choice about what to do with her time.  Here I was SERVING Him, and Mary gets the praise?

Is it possible that Jesus would like you to spend more time at His feet and less time on yours?  Over the next few days, try to spend more time with Jesus — even if it means something else doesn’t get done.  Make the choice that can’t be taken away from you. 

If you’re struggling with a particular aspect of giving your time to God, please feel free to share in the comments below (or in an email, if you’re more comfortable with that: awomanforhim@gmail.com).  If you’ve been successful at giving God the first fruits of your time, please share some of your strategies below!

Want to read more?  Start the (becoming) fully submitted series from the beginning.  Or read the next post in the series: (becoming) fully submitted, part 3.

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