New Testament passage for Friday, April 4, 2013: Luke 10:38-11:13
38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’[a]feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (NKJV)
Priorities are a constant battle. Books and seminars abound helping us sort out the best use of time, talents, and treasures. The complexity of life can leave us confused, disjointed, and disconnected. Our frenetic, frantic pace takes its toll.
By definition, a priority is something that ranks above all others in terms of importance. It comes first. Because of the pressures of job, finances, or obligations, many people feel they no longer get to choose their time. It's one unbending demand after another.
The Bible speaks a lot about priorities. If ever it were so, we need now to hear God's wisdom about this. Luke gives us a marvelous story about two women who are really one -- Martha and Mary. I say they are one because I find something of Martha and something of Mary in each of us.
Jesus arrives in Bethany to be welcomed by these two sisters. With enthusiasm, they receive Him into their home. Two different personalities immediately arise within these sisters. Martha is a blur of activity preparing the house -- preparing the meal -- making sure everything is right. Meanwhile, her little sister is sitting over to the side doing a little Bible study. Mary is engaged in prayer time and spiritual enrichment while her sister is busting a gut trying to pull off a decent supper.
The obvious lesson Jesus teaches out of this story is that Mary, not Martha, has her priorities straight. He actually scolds Martha for being so "worried and troubled" (vs. 41). He commends Mary for choosing "the good part" (vs. 42).
What does this mean? Martha's diligence is certainly commendable. She is a WORKER. Without her, there is no meal. Nothing gets done. The issue, however is not her ACTIVITY, but her ATTITUDE. Thank God for the folks who "find a need and fill it." Praise God for those responsible individuals who don't wait to be commanded what to do, but instead grab hold.
Martha's trap, however, was a "martyr complex." She got angry because "Miss Spiritual" (Mary) was over there enjoying sitting on her blessed assurance while she (Martha) was working her head off.
I find in the story of Martha and Mary a picture of the church today. One part (some say 20%) are doing all the work. Meanwhile, the other part (perhaps 80%) are enjoying the music, amen-ing the preaching, and getting their spiritual needs met. The truth is that there MUST be something of Martha and something of Mary in every one of us.
A simple description of this short story is DEVOTED OR DISTRACTED. Martha got so "distracted" (vs 40) by her activities that her attitude went sour. She became so tied up in making the meal, she forgot Who it was for.
Mary comes off looking good in this story. She sat "at the Lord's feet, listening to His word" (vs. 39). She is an example to us of laser focus on seeing and savoring the Savior. She could say with David, "One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord" (Psalm 27:4). She was a sponge in Jesus' presence.
We need a combination of Mary and Martha. This cannot be either/or but rather both/and. To Martha, Paul speaks in Colossians, "And whatever you do, do it HEARTILY, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward..." (Col 3:23-24). To Mary, Paul speaks in Titus: while we gaze upon the blessed hope and enjoy His grace, realize that Jesus saved us "to purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14).
Our first priority is to the Lord. He really wants us to sit at His feet. This does not mean that we leave needed jobs undone. It means we tithe of our time, we step aside for a moment, we calm down long enough to love Him and hear Him. We listen.
We are all called to do far more than is humanly possible. We need to power of God to perform at the level needed. The attitude of Martha will only lead to defeat or cynicism. If you and I will get into the presence of Jesus to "behold the beauty of the Lord", it will be power to prepare the best meal we ever cooked. That's the way Jesus wants it. Martha and Mary are really one person -- you and me.