I look around the kitchen and want to walk out of the room, leaving the mess for someone else to clean up. I grumble under my breath. “Thanks for leaving me a mess to clean up. Unbelievable.”
Anger rushes in. Irritation sparks a flare of temper. Slamming pots, I practically throw the dishes into the washer and scrape something sticky off the counter. I don’t even want to know…
“How could they be so selfish, so thoughtless,” my inner tirade continues. Frazzled, all I can think is people are coming over in an hour for Bible study and the house is a wreck.
Why is it so easy for serving others to stir up resentment?
Been there, done that? I think we all have. Consider this story Jesus told:
“A certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving…” Luke 10:38-40 KJV
Some days I’m a Martha. I can Martha myself into a frenzy, whipping my to-do list like a weapon. That rumpled scrap of paper, filled with both the meaningful and the mundane, feels heavy in my hand. Thinking through the commitments of the week, inward pressure builds as resentment grates against my good intentions.
Four reasons serving others can make us resentful:
Reason 1: Good intentions become expectations.
I feel the good intentions of Martha’s heart. With the grace of hospitality, she welcomes Jesus into her home. The pressure of preparations to please and maybe impress, turn a blessing into an obligation. A gift into an expectation. Her desire to serve plays out with high expectations of both herself and others. Oh, yes I know this problem all too well. Do you?
When we feel cumbered with much serving, we often feel entitled to have others meet our expectations. After all, we’re the one sacrificing our time and effort to do the good thing of serving others. The least everyone else can do is appreciate our hard work and help out. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a woman on the planet who can’t relate to this situation.
Reason #2: Over-commitment and lack of balance in serving.
Though cumbered isn’t a word we use much anymore, we live its meaning all too easily on the days that our tasks outnumber our time and energy. Cumbered, used this one time in Scripture, means to drag around, to draw away, to distract with care, to be over-occupied, or too busy about a thing.
We can be too busy with many things and we can be too busy with one thing.
When our service begins to feed our feelings of self-worth, when serving becomes something to prove ourselves, commitment can warp into preoccupation. When this happens, the good thing of service becomes consuming.
In this context serving is a feminine noun (interesting) relating specifically to Christian service. This word opens its arms wide, ministering to others. It works hard, called by God to proclaim and promote religion among men. Serving also includes assisting in the church, helping with charities, or preparing food.
Mary enjoys the moment, sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His words. Needless to say, while the food is still cooking and the table still needs to be set, this doesn’t go over well with Martha.
“Lord, is it of no concern to You that my sister has left me to do the serving alone? Tell her to help me and do her part.” Luke 10:40 AMP
Reason 3: Our agenda and needs become the focus.
Was Martha slamming dishes with the not-so-subtle hint of “Sister, get in here and do your fair share!” Did she stomp around the kitchen in a self-righteous fury? Did she interrupt Jesus in the middle of his teaching or did she wait for a pause? When our focus narrows to how tired we are or what we’re not getting, resentment grows.
Reason 4: A critical mentality breeds resentment.
Notice how Martha has drawn a line of right and wrong with her expectations. She is right to serve and Mary is wrong for not meeting Martha’s expectations. What started out as a partnership of shared service between sisters has become divisive. Criticism creates sides of us against them.
Isn’t it easy to do the same thing?
The situation in these few verses is replayed again and again through out time. In our homes, in our churches, in our ministries, and in our work, we can all struggle with the problems of the heart that come with being too busy about a thing.
Which reason for resentment have you struggled with?