November 7, 2015

Luke 10:38-42

Ever since Martha Stewart emerged on the scene in the 1990s, whenever I read about the Martha in the Bible, Martha Stewart’s face pops into my mind. I’ve often wondered, based on the verses revealing Martha’s personality, if she might have suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) like Martha Stewart admits she does: “I'm very OCD and particular about where things go and I love to organize my workspace perfectly.” While no one can confirm if Martha was OCD, we do know the presence of Jesus in her home drove her to work instead of worship to the point that Jesus had to firmly, but lovingly, tell her that her attention to housework was misguided. Can you imagine how horrible she must have felt when her Savior said, “Mary,” her baby sister, “has chosen the good part?” Those words must have stung like crazy.

John Piper wrote in his Desiring God blog on July 31, 2014: “For better or worse, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has tumbled into popular culture as a label for our uptight and detail-minded acquaintances. Many of us know someone who is OCD about his schedule or his budget or keeping his silverware neatly stacked. But clinically speaking, OCD extends beyond mere personality quirks to include mental and behavioral patterns that can lock arms in a vortex of bondage.”

Piper goes on to say, “So what causes OCD? Researchers have offered a variety of explanations. Some, for example, have suggested a link between OCD and abnormal levels of serotonin, a chemical that relays messages from one neuron in the brain to another. Others have pointed to genetics and certain environmental factors. But despite these leads, no one has been able to identify an airtight physical explanation. Alas, we are embodied spirits, complex tangles of clay and ether. Our worship, rightly ordered or no, stretches like a spinal cord through our existence, never seen but always felt, always directing, always present. So when dealing with a mental disorder such as OCD, we would do well to consider the whole person in our diagnosis, soul as well as body.”

Colossians 2:20-23 offers some insight on where these earthly obsessions begin. Doing good work and following certain rules can get so firmly rooted in our minds that the thought or idea of grace becomes inconceivable and in some cases completely undesirable. And then when paired with Luke’s account of Martha’s situation, Jesus’ statement to her becomes more emphatic, “Stop! Sit down! Focus on me. I’m what matters most. All of that other stuff can wait—it needs to wait. Just worship me and everything else in your life will fall into place.”