What does “cumbered” mean?


by Shawn Brasseaux

“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” (Luke 10:40). The expression “cumbered” here should remind us of another—yet more familiar—English word. “Cumbersome” means “difficult to use, slow, complicated.” The general idea is a hindrance or burden, and it carries the same meaning in Luke 10:40.

Read the verse and term in context: “[38] Now it came to pass, as they went, that he [the Lord Jesus Christ] entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. [39] And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. [40] 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. [41] And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: [42] But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Martha is “careful” (verse 41) as in “full of care” or “worried;” the Lord also described her here as “troubled about many things.” To be “cumbered” means “obstructed, hindered, burdened.” Instead of being like her sister Mary and listening to Jesus teach, Martha was preoccupied or distracted with serving food. Similar to most of her nation, Martha was so concerned with worldly or carnal/fleshly affairs that she overlooked more important spiritual matters (God’s words). She was prevented from thinking like a woman of God is designed to think. In Greek, “cumbered” is “perispao,” literally meaning “to drag all around.” That is, “fretting about this and that and this and that and this and that!” Here is an apt depiction of Martha (an immature believer) and apostate Israel (unbelievers).

“Cumbersome” can also be defined as “slow or complicated and therefore inefficient.” That would be Israel spiritually during Christ’s three-year earthly ministry! See Luke chapter 13: “[6] He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. [7] Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? [8] And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: [9] And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” This word “cumbereth” in verse 7 is the Greek “katargeo,” as in “to be idle or inactive.” Israel’s religion is a barren fig tree—having produced no faith or good works, only self-righteous lost people who refuse to recognize their need for the Saviour. Consequently, they cannot function as God’s earthly people to reach the Gentiles. The nation Israel was given a one-year extension of mercy to believe the Gospel of the Kingdom, and that was during the first seven chapters of the Book of Acts. Of course, unbelief continued to prevail amongst the Jewish people; thus, through Israel’s fall, the resurrected, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ saved and commissioned the Apostle Paul and turned to the Gentiles through his ministry (Romans 11:11-14).

Also see:
» What is the “one needful thing” in Luke 10:42?
» Why did Jesus curse the “poor” fig tree?
» Is Israel “cast away,” or not? Has Israel “fallen,” or not?
» Is God finished with the nation Israel?
» “All Israel shall be saved?”