Sermon: Successful Siblings - Luke 10

From conflict to resolution, Martha and Mary give us a wonderful look at how God intends for us to thrive in the midst of our differences.

Scripture: Luke 10:38-42

Introduction

Steve Tran was tired of spotting them crawling down the wall while he watched TV. He was tired of the middle-of-the-night discoveries when he turned on the kitchen light. He was tired of the rowdy cockroach poker games the bugs were obviously having in the dark corners of his pantry.Steve was just fed up, and ready for revenge. There were stores in Westminster, California that sold bug bombs, and Steve bought some. The back of the bug bombs said two would do it for a house the size of Steve's, but he didn't want just two bug bombs. He'd had it with cockroaches, and he was ready to blow them straight to cockroach hell.

So Steve didn't buy two bug bombs. He bought 25.

Yes sir, he bought two dozen, plus one. Steve needed both arms to bring those canisters inside his apartment, and he needed quite a bit of time to set them all up.

I can only imagine the smoke that soon covered the place. The spray of 25 cockroach bombs in an apartment kitchen must be quite overpowering. The air in Steve's place became rich with fuel, and the cockroach screams could be heard for miles around.

Or was it Steve and his neighbors screaming? The thick spray reached the pilot light of his stove, ignited, and created the biggest bug bomb folks had ever seen in Westminster. Steve's screen door blew clear across the street. Every window and every piece of glass in Steve's apartment was shattered. His furniture caught fire, and the fire department soon soaked Steve's smoke-damaged belongings.

It would take $10,000 for the apartment complex to repair the damage, and years for Steve to recover from his anger.

And wouldn't you know it? The cockroaches were back by the following Sunday!

The moral of the story? If you've got a problem inside your house, be sure you solve the problem without destroying your home! (Source: The Arizona Republic 4/25/95, Citation: Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 2.)

Body: Sibling rivalries have been blowing up homes for centuries. In the Bible, some of the most memorable stories are of brothers and sisters who simply couldn't get along.

Joseph irritated his older brothers with his dreams of ruling over them, which was part of the reason the brothers decided they could do with one less younger brother! (Genesis 37) Jacob and Esau were wrestling with one another even as they were born (Gen. 25:26), and some of David's children seemed bent on destroying one another. (2 Samuel 13) As it was then, it is now. When family members don't address conflict appropriately, you can almost see them setting out the bug bombs, and sooner or later, you know the damage is going to be great.

One of the clearest lessons in the Bible for siblings today comes from the story of Martha and Mary, two adult sisters living in the same house with their brother Lazarus. From conflict to resolution, Martha and Mary give us a wonderful look at how God intends for us to thrive in the midst of our differences.

Successful siblings know that …

I. Confrontation avoided is a conflict in the making

Martha and Mary had drastically different ideas of what should happen when Jesus came to their home. Martha immediately envisioned a big meal and an opportunity to show off the family's hospitality. Mary could think of nothing better than listening to Jesus teach. As Luke tells the story, Martha exploded with the fury of an unexpected storm, trading in an opportunity for gracious hospitality for embarrassing conflict.

Danny protested vehemently when his mother told him to take his younger sister with him when he was going fishing, but mom insisted so Danny obeyed. They returned only a few minutes later, and Danny's mother said, "That certainly didn't take very long. I hope your sister didn't make too much noise." Danny replied, "Oh, it wasn't the noise. There just wasn't much use staying after she ate all the bait." Perhaps Danny should have used confrontation with a little more conviction! (Source: Robert R. Kopp, Pastor, Logans Ferry Presbyterian Church, New Kensington, PA)

A third-grade Sunday school teacher was giving a Bible lesson on the commandment, honor thy father and thy mother.

"Now, does anyone know a commandment for brothers and sisters?"

One sharp girl raised her hand and said, " 'Thou shalt not kill.' " (Source: Jack Seberry, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Christian Reader, "Lite Fare.")

What's missing in the story is a private conversation between Martha and Mary. The two sisters could have – and should have – discussed the situation as soon as possible. Had both women prepared the food, perhaps both would have been able to have listened to the teaching. Had both women asked Jesus what would be required of them, perhaps another option altogether would have been presented. After all, this is the man who could produce a meal for thousands from a boy's lunch!

When a healthy conversation didn't happen, however, the seeds for family conflict were planted. When Martha felt the stress of preparing for so many by herself, the plants of conflict were watered, fertilized, and cultivated. With every glance toward her idle sister, Martha's anger was increased.

But Martha did not address her anger or her concern to Mary! She was angry at her sister, but she didn't communicate that anger. The avoidance of confrontation not only didn't solve the problem, it actually made the problem far worse. Eventually, Martha's refusal to confront Mary resulted in a far more unpleasant situation.

In addition, Martha's effort to punish her sister actually backfired. When Jesus spoke, he corrected Martha!

"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."

Because she avoided direct, confrontational conversation with her sister, everyone in the family suffered.

Confrontation seems frightening to many people. Here's a key to remember. Confrontation is no more than a conversation about differences. And confrontation is a lot more pleasant than conflict!

II. Serving one another is the price of success

Few conflicts inside a family are the fault of one person only. If Martha's mistake was avoiding confrontation, Mary's mistake was placing her own desires ahead of those of her sister. In a sense, both sisters had a correct analysis of the situation. Mary was correct in listening to Jesus. That kind of opportunity didn't come around every day! Martha, however, was correct in seeing the need for preparing a meal for their guests. Thirteen hungry men don't show up in your living room every day, either!

Had Mary thought of Martha's practical personality first, she would have certainly helped with the meal. Both women, then, could have had some time at the feet of Jesus. As a matter of fact, perhaps Lazarus could have broken the "women-in-the-kitchen" stereotype and helped get the table set. After all, it's not everyday that the table needs to be expanded five fold!

Fred Craddock, in an address to ministers, caught the practical implications of consecration. "To give my life for Christ appears glorious," he said. "To pour myself out for others ... to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom – I'll do it. I'm ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory.

"We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the table – 'Here's my life, Lord. I'm giving it all.'

"But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid's troubles instead of saying, 'Get lost.' Go to a committee meeting. Give up a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home.

"Usually giving our life to Christ isn't glorious. It's done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it's harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul."

Serving your siblings certainly comes 25 cents at a time. When a brother helps his sister with a chore, or when a sister volunteers to pass the remote control to her brother, serving happens. When the oldest child brags on a younger sibling, the words are never forgotten by the brother or sister hearing the praise. Instead of competing against a brother or sister, successful siblings learn how to compete together. When siblings serve one another, they compete together.

A mother of four in our church recently told her Bible study group of family practice that still deeply impacted her. On New Year's Eve, part of this family's annual tradition included a circle of verbal support. As the new year was beginning, every family member took turns heaping positive comments upon one person at a time. There was no limit to the number of positive comments, and no one was excluded. Even mom and dad heard positive comments from their children. More than two decades after the last circle of praise, her eyes glistened with tears as she remembered the effect of hearing her parents and siblings shower her with praise. "It was overwhelming," she said. "Absolutely overwhelming."

III. Knowing Jesus is the key to any family's success

The conflict between Martha and Mary isn't the last time we hear from these two sisters. The two of them suffer through the greatest crisis of their lives when their brother Lazarus dies. Miraculously, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead four days after his funeral. When Jesus arrived some time later, the family threw an appreciation banquet for Jesus and his disciples.

Scripture: John 12:1-3

Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Martha served. Mary worshipped. Lazarus was very much alive, enjoying the meal. This family was working perfectly, a far cry from the first time we met them. The difference? Jesus not only had been in their home – now they followed Jesus with no reservations.

Lazarus had the distinct understanding of what it was like to be dead, and yet alive, because of Jesus. Martha had made a bold profession of faith before Jesus had raised her brother. (John 11:27) Mary worshipped Jesus with an expensive boldness, bathing his feat with pure nard.

Nothing will promote the best characteristics of your family like putting Jesus at the center of your family. When each member of the family professes Jesus as Martha did, every sibling is on the same team. There is common ground to celebrate. When each member of the family enjoys a church event, a worship concert, or some season of revival, each person in the family operates at a maximum level of effectiveness. Brothers serve, sisters speak lovingly of one another, and family members recognize the strengths of other personalities inside the family circle.

Luke's incredible vocabulary provides a wonderful word picture for us in this passage. Mary's gift of perfume apparently nearly overwhelmed the people in the house. The smell "saturated" the house, Luke says. The house was "filled with the fragrance. No one could escape it. If you had been allergic to perfume, you'd have had to leave. It was so strong, the smell surely stayed in the house long after Jesus left. For days after, the scent was a constant reminder that Jesus had been in their home, and that he'd made a profound difference in the way siblings related to one another. When Jesus becomes the focus of your family, the difference will saturate your home, too. It'll fill ever corner, and affect every relationship.

All of us have family heirlooms that have been handed down from generation to generation.One family treasured a very old vase.Then even kept it on the mantle where everybody could see it.When the mother came in from shopping late one afternoon, her teenage daughter said: "Mother, you know that vase that has been handed down from generation to generation?"Yes, dear," her mother replied. Her daughter said:"Well this generation just dropped it."

Don't let it be said of you that you dropped the vase of being a servant-minded brother or sister!

Andy Cook is the pastor of Shirley Hills Baptist Church in, Warner Robins, Georgia.