“Seek not to be cumbered”

I have a sticky note stuck just inside the front cover of both my Bible and my Book of Mormon — both of these sticky notes say “seek not to be cumbered.” with the reference (Luke 10:40) in parenthesis. I’m not sure if I made both sticky notes at the same time — I doubt it, because one is yellow and the other is orange. I’m guessing that I have felt on at least two occasions the need to deliberately remind myself not to be cumbered.

The dictionary definition of cumber is:
cumber |ˈkəmbər|
verb [ trans. ] dated
hamper or hinder (someone or something) : they were cumbered with greatcoats and swords.
• obstruct (a path or space) : the road was clean and dry and not still cumbered by slush.
noun archaic
a hindrance, obstruction, or burden : a cumber of limestone rocks.


The passage in the New Testament, found in Luke 10:38-42 is where Christ visits Martha and her sister Mary.

¶ Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and 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, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

I think of this passage quite often, when I’m planning a party or event, preparing to host a guest, working on a big project or even just fixing Sunday dinner for my family. I don’t know about you, but I love anticipating fun and festive things. Sometimes my anticipation takes on a vision full of little details that would fall in the nice-but-ultimately-unnecessary column. In spite of my anticipation, I generally don’t leave myself enough time to execute all or even most of my great ideas. If I find myself getting short with my children or feeling resentful towards my husband — if I start to feel “cumbered” I think of this passage. I try to remind myself that one thing is needful and  that one thing is having the Holy Ghost (or Spirit) with me and listening to his still small voice. His is the voice that teaches me what is most important (and what is not) in any given situation; his is the voice that says “Let go Stace and remember that it’s about enjoying the people you love.” I’m sure Martha just wanted things to be extra special for the Savior and it is certainly isn’t a bad thing to plan and prepare, but … she was being a bit of a martyr and probably hoped that Christ would say, “Mary, go help your sister” but he didn’t and that is because in the end it is the positive feelings that come from listening, conversing and engaging with people that will remain with you — that is the good part that will not be taken away.
The “good part” is the good part because that is where relationships are strengthened and happy memories are made.
Here’s a snippet of a talk that President Monson shares a similar message …

Life is full of challenges and un-anticipated interruptions and problems. Life is also full of fun things to do and plan — I want to be the kind of person that can knows how to step away from the party plans, or the problem and focus on the people. I love the last line of this little video clip …

Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.
That’s good advice.


  1. i have just finished reading the book – finding happiness by abbot christopher jamison. in it he looks at eight thoughts that we may have that hold us back from happiness. in the chapter on pride he mentions keeping busy – “the assumption being that busy people are important people” and says that we need to to “consciuosly find ways to lay aside the tendency constantly to ‘be busy being important’. i love the idea that we can “waste” time being creative – making things and playing with our children and spiritually by reading spiritual books or meditating. how often do i feel guilty wasting time on things i like doing rather than things i “should” be doing. this passage reminded me too of mary and martha and prompted me to read more about the meaning of the story. i often find myself behaving more like martha than mary.i loved that as i checked your blog today you had been thinking the same thoughts. thankyou for sharing them with us.

  2. Nilaja Whitaker says:

    thank you stacey. Thank you.

  3. Thanks, that was a beautiful reminder of what is really important!

  4. Kate in UT says:

    Thanks for being a spot of inspiration on my Sunday. I’m heading off to Church and will be teaching a Gospel Doctrine Lesson, but was feeling a bit flat in the Spirit due to three sick kiddos and a husband gone for meetings most of the morning. Thanks for lifting me up and helping me to feel more spiritually prepared for my lesson today. I hope you receive the blessings you are most certainly due for sharing with me and so many others today.

  5. Beautiful message.

  6. Thank you for your spiritual Sunday focus – I love the boost that it gives me. :)

  7. thank you for those words. I read them right before I had my 1st jr. Legion of Mary meeting and I was a bit worried. After reading your words I was not worried, it was all in God’s hands

  8. I read a great book called Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World that spoke to this. It was a quick ready, you may enjoy it too.

  9. Thank you for the great reminder.

  10. thank you Stacy for this thoughtful and meaningful post. I will now look forward to these on Sundays!

  11. Linda Mann says:

    Thank you for sharing.

  12. Thank you for sharing this wonderful thought with us. It comes at a time when I have been feeling more Martha and it is a reminder that I needed to hear. Thanks.

  13. Thanks for this bit of inspiration, Stacy! I LOVE Shakespeare, and I had never heard that quote, but it was worth writing down. “They do not love that do not show their love.” How true! I want to be one who shows love. Thanks for the reminder.

  14. Love this passage. I think some of us are born Marthas and what a good job. The important thing is to make sure we know our Marthas and appreciate what they do for us. And to give them time to “be Mary” sometimes.

    Thanks Stacy

  15. Thank you. The timing of this post is perfect for me.

  16. I love that Shakespeare quotation as well as the final phrase on the video regarding remembering to show love rather than solve a problem. And I, too, could use the reminder to seek not to be cumbered. It’s been a while since I thought about Martha. Thank you for the inspiring post.

  17. Just wanted to say how much I appreciate these Sunday posts. Loved your point about focused attention over more time. Love even more how often it came back to me during stressful moments this week.

    I appreciate when someone of any faith shares some of her or his journey. Growing up a Mary with a very Martha mother, that was always my favorite bible story. It wasn’t until I was teaching it at Sunday School I realized how very short it is—and yet when I think of how the gospel writers must have had to choose so selectively which stories of Jesus’ life to include, I love that this one was so important, and is still so relevant today.

    As an adult and mom to 3 boys, I’ve become much more of a Martha, and now I appreciate how Jesus’ words to Martha are so kind. He doesn’t reprimand her, and acknowledges that she’s stressed (“thou art careful and troubled about many things”), while still showing us what is most important.

  18. I just visited your site for the first time after reading someone else’s blog and they mentioned yours. So I visited yours today and it really touched me. Often I have felt like Martha, and just wanted to get things done. After reading your wonderful thoughts on this subject I realized you were right about being a martyr doesn’t let the inspiration come in and touch your heart. Enjoy the people and the moment for they will soon be gone!

  19. Enjoyed this so much! Our Bible Study has just finished doing the books “Having a Mary Spirit in a Martha World” and the follow-up one – both very good reads! Thanks for sharing your take on this passage that al of us busy women need to look at over and over again!

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