United Presbyterian Church of West Orange


Date: July 17, 2022

Sermon Title: "One Thing"

Minister Kimberly Braxton


Focus Scripture: Luke 10:38-42


Supporting Scriptures:

Plank in eye, when you have a problem go to your brother and leave your gift 



1) There is a time to work and a time to listen. Complete discipleship contains both


Sermon – “One Thing”


This morning we are in a very familiar passage of scripture two sisters Martha and Mary. These two women may be related by blood but we can see from the text that they have completely different personalities. And isn’t that the way with siblings. Even though children are raised in the same household, and perhaps they share the same DNA each person has a personality all their own. However, there are traits that can be identified from a child’s birth order. If you’ve been around siblings you can pretty much tell who is the oldest, the baby, and the infamous middle child. In case you need a reminder all I have to say is “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” and some people here will flash back to the Brady Bunch and that illustration of the infamous “Middle Child Syndrome”. Each child’s birth order has their traits. From the middle child - - being rebellious, a people pleaser, and independent. To the last-born who is uncomplicated, self-centered, seeks attention, fun, charming and outgoing. And the only child who is flawless without spot or blemish…. But that oldest child - - the first born…. They are known for being responsible, motivated, controlling, cautious, reliable, perfectionist, achievers, leaders, being bossy and a bit of a know-it-all. But “know it all”  is such a triggering phrase… Let’s just say that the eldest child has a tendency to be “aggressively correct”

- -  in every situation

- - and at all times.


And this is where we find Martha in our text this morning. As the eldest sister she understood the responsibility of the culture of her day - - providing hospitality was extremely important. A family’s reputation could be lost if proper hospitality was not shown towards guests.



Remember earlier in Luke Chapter 7 Jesus rebuked the Pharisees when they invited him into their home but did not extend the proper hospitality, but Mary Magdalene washed his feet with her tears and anointed his feet with perfume. Beginning at Verse 44


44 Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume.”


Martha wasn’t like the Pharisees that were inhospitable towards Jesus. She understood her responsibilities and obligations of being a hostess. I’m sure Martha was one of those people that would clean her house BEFORE the housekeeper comes. You know those people…. They need to dust, wet mop, and straighten BEFORE the housekeeper comes because they don’t want the housekeeper to judge them as not being able to keep their house clean. Which is why they hired a housekeeper in the first place.


But here we find Martha, the eldest sister in charge and taking care of all the responsibilities of the household and performing her duties as “hostess extraordinaire” And in all this running around Martha sees her sister, lounging and relaxing at the feet of Jesus. Now back in those days women weren’t considered worthy enough to educate and sitting at the feet of a teacher was reserved for disciples. And here is Mary, just sitting at the feet of the Master. Listening to the teacher.


And Martha was having no parts of this display of laziness and neglecting of responsibility. Martha understood not only her responsibilities but the responsibilities of her sister. She knew exactly what her sister should have been doing and sitting at Jesus’ feet was not in the action plan for the day. I’m sure Martha had an extensive list of things she needed to do in order to prepare for Jesus’ arrival with the disciplines. She was going to be meticulously prepared. Every detail covered.


I always wondered why Jesus rebuked Martha for her behavior. Discipleship should contain two important components 1) Listening and Learning and 2) Serving (doing the work). There needs to be a balance between stillness and activity; between listening and doing. The adage is “how can you pour from an empty cup?” If you get so busy serving and doing the “work” of discipleship when will you have time to “receive”? If you are pouring out everything you have but never taking time to sit still and be refilled what exactly are you pouring out? In the words of Daniel Block, “discipleship is a balanced combination of two things: service and reflection.”


In this passage of scripture we see both ends of discipleship demonstrated. Mary is taking time to sit with Jesus to listen and learn while Martha is taking the lead in the service end of discipleship. Both women were performing right actions in walking out their discipleship and commitment to Jesus but why was Martha rebuked and Mary was allowed to linger at his feet? Martha complained about Mary’s idleness because it was creating an undue burden on her. Can you imagine her running around the kitchen, getting all the food ready, serving, offering water to clean their feet, clearing plates, keeping wine glasses full without her sister’s assistance? I can almost see the dirty looks Martha was probably throwing at her sister…. Mumbling under her breath, “Oh so you just gonna sit there? The ENTIRE time!

Girl… Wait until Jesus leaves.” And I can imagine Mary sitting there just staring up at the Savior sitting at his feet. Soaking it all in. And to add insult to Martha’s injured pride Mary lifting her cup “I thirst too.” Or yelling out to the kitchen “Martha! Jesus needs more bread! His plate is empty.”


I can see Martha’s jaw getting tighter and tighter but when Martha points out her sister’s lack of participation in the preparation He didn’t instruct Mary to get up and help her sister, He rebuked Martha. The question remains - - Why?

    1.  Who is the Lord in this relationship?

Martha was a bit “bossy”. So much so that she asks Jesus in Verse 40, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to help me.” Forgive me, but aren’t the roles in this relationship with Jesus are that He is the Master, the Teacher and Martha is the servant? Based on the way she phrased her question in Greek Martha expected Jesus to agree with her. Perhaps she thought He was distracted and so engrossed in teaching that he didn’t realize there was an entire grown woman sitting at His Feet. And if we are honest with ourselves there are times when we try to micromanage God. Instead of spending time with the Lord being still, taking time to listen and fellowship with Him we drop off a “Honey do list” for Him and then come back to evaluate his performance. However, the very nature of being Lord means that He gets to Judge. If Mary was doing something wrong He would have rebuked her He did not require Martha’s guidance. Although Martha was honoring Jesus with her acts of service her attitude was not honoring Him as Lord and Jesus refused to give any credence to Martha’s complaining. And in His words, “Mary has chosen rightly and it will not be taken from her.”


   2.   Don’t Evaluate Other People’s Walk Based on Your Relationship.

Martha was placed herself in the position to judge her sister’s behavior. But Matthew 7 instructs us “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.


And isn’t that what happened to Martha. She called out her sister’s actions (or in this case inaction) and the rebuke was turned around on her. As Matthew 7 continues in verse 3, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”  Martha was so busy judging at the speck in her sister’s eye she couldn’t discern how her attitude was tainting her actions and her decision to serve.  Instead of looking at herself in this situation and taking a moment to reflect on her own behavior, her own attitude, Martha opted to try and manage her sister and place herself in the position to judge Mary’s behavior. Shocked to discover that Jesus did not agree with her assessment.


Now to be clear there was nothing wrong with service. Remember discpliship is a balance between service and listening. However, Martha evaluation of her sister’s service as wrong was the problem. It would be like if someone was evaluating your marriage. You’re happily married, minding your business, living your life and loving your spouse. Then there’s some Martha that comes by and tries to judge you, “They always going out on dates. Just wasting money that they could have donated to the work of the kingdom.”


   3.  Last point. Find Your Balance

I have a confession to make. I am not the best housekeeper. I mean when I’m good, I’m excellent. Everything is in its place, surfaces are dusted, windows are even washed. When I’m on my game my house smells like a combination of Fabluso with a hint of bleach. However, if you come to my house unannounced that level of neatness is mostly aspirational.

On most days there is random clutter scattered around. There are bibles, reference books, journals, pens, highlighters, a laptop, and a laptop desk spread on the sofa and end tables. Decorative pillows are tossed aside to make room prayer journals. It's not uncommon to see an empty coffee cup next to a worn bible. Why am I telling you this? Well, mainly to discourage you from dropping by unannounced.


No Just joking.


No, I’m saying this because I don’t believe in teaching what I don’t practice. Earlier this year I made a conscious decision that I wanted to spend more time with God. And if it meant waking up earlier, not exercising in the morning, skipping breakfast, and leaving the house with my bed unmade so I can have time to pray and sit with the Savior then that’s what was going to happen. Why? Because after evaluating my own discipleship practice I realized I was heavy on service and putting tasks first but my time spent praying, mediating and seeking God’s direction and guidance was deficient.


I want to close this message with an assignment. I challenge you this week to reflect and evaluate your discipleship. If you have an iPhone check out how much time you are spending on your device. Where is your focus? If you don’t have the official Kingdom smartphone I’m sure you can do the same.

Evaluate how you prioritize your day. And start to pinpoint where time with the Lord comes in. On most days our schedules are packed to capacity and there never seems to be enough time to get everything that we had planned done. So we need to prioritize. And in that prioritization evaluate how your discipleship measures up. Are you heavy on service? Are you overly contemplative?


I made this adjustment because at the end of my life I don’t want to hear Matthew 7:23, “I never knew you; depart from me.” Evaluate your relationship with the Creator. And if needed choose the One thing that truly matters.