‘Cumbered About’, as used in the King James Version of the Bible, means to be distracted, hindered, hampered, overloaded, or over-burdened. Notice how it is used in the following portion of Scripture:
As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He taught. But Martha was distracted (KJV: cumbered about) by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to You that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 NLT)
The following is a reflection I would like to share from a new devotional I have:
“This short story reveals the ever-present temptation to substitute self-reliant religion for the gospel. Even Christians can slip into a mentality that attempts to earn God’s favor with our acts of devotion. The gospel, however, calls us to reorient our lives around the message of God’s gracious love for us in Christ. Rather than emphasizing what we are doing for God—even doing good things such as serving —the one thing that is ‘necessary’ and the ‘good portion’ (verse 42 ASV) is to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to him. To our surprise, we can actually become ‘distracted with much serving’ (verse 40 ASV). Jesus invites us to enjoy his presence before he commands us to perform our duties. Above all, to follow Jesus as a disciple means to be with him and listen to him. This alone enables us to take up our cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23).”
In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus’ friends Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, have given us good examples into the subject of being ‘cumbered about’ and not being ‘cumbered about’. Then as we go to the following portion of Scripture, we see yet another angle:
Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man He had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with Him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray Him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me.” (John 12:1-8 NLT)
But New Testament Scripture does not stop with the story of Mary and Martha on the subject of being ‘cumbered about’. Paul takes us even deeper and explains how we must take care and not let the things of this world (even if they are not sin) come between us and Jesus:
But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage. Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions. Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away. I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible. But if a man thinks that he’s treating his fiancée improperly and will inevitably give in to his passion, let him marry her as he wishes. It is not a sin. But if he has decided firmly not to marry and there is no urgency and he can control his passion, he does well not to marry. So the person who marries his fiancée does well, and the person who doesn’t marry does even better. A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he loves the Lord. But in my opinion it would be better for her to stay single, and I think I am giving you counsel from God’s Spirit when I say this. (1Corinthians 7:29-40 NLT)
Notice Paul’s advice and observations:
1. Our time on this earth is short.
2. Do not become attached to the things of this world.
3. Do not be absorbed by weeping or joy or possessions.
4. People need to be free from the concerns of this life.
5. It is better not to marry, because a married person has to think about their earthly responsibilities and how to please their mate.
6. But it is not a sin to marry. If a person marries, they do well. But if they can live OK without getting married, they do better.
7. An unmarried person can spend their time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please only Him. But a married person has to think about their earthly responsibilities and how to please their mate. Their interests are divided.
One of the biggest tools of Satan in our present society is making sure people are ‘cumbered about’, especially through entertainment, sports, and technology. People are abandoning the Church and flocking to these distractions.
Daniel’s prophecy is truly being fulfilled:
“But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.” (Daniel 12:4 NLT)
Ask yourself, “Am I steadfast in giving to the Lord what is due Him, or am I cumbered about’?”
I would like to leave you with a true story from my youth:
I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, so I spent a lot of research getting ready. Not until I started out in Maine, did I learn the realities of the hike. As I trudged up and down the tough mountains, I was not a happy camper. I was ‘cumbered about’ with too much in my backpack. It was heart wrenching at first, but I needed to take out what I learned was not absolutely necessary, and mail it home at the first Post Office that was available. I even learned to cut back on some of the food supplies as I learned to eat more and more from nature that surrounded me. Soon I became a happy camper that I was meant to be, just like I imagined it would be before I set off on the hike. This did not happen until I learned that I could not be ‘cumbered about’. It is a lesson, not only in hiking, but in my Christian walk through life. God Bless!
Dale, great message. The way you connected various ways of being “cumbered about” was very insightful & practical. You are an effective writer! (The art is beautiful. I’m amazed how you utilize it.)