While they were traveling, he entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.”
The Lord answered her,“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42 (CSB)
It is customary in our culture to greet someone we haven’t seen in a while with the question, “How have you been?” And perhaps the most common reply I’ve both heard and often give is, “Busy. I’ve been busy.” It’s not a dishonest answer. Life is often extremely busy; but the truth is, we often take pride in our busyness. It’s an American virtue that has made its way into our theology. We tend to think that busyness (for the Kingdom, of course!) is a form of godliness.
Here we see Jesus saying something quite different, and if we’re honest, this passage is hard for some of us. We sympathize with Martha. She is hosting Jesus and his disciples in her home, working hard to make sure everything is just right. She’s hustling and bustling while Mary appears to lazily sit idle.
The words of our Lord land heavy; they confront the Martha in all of us. “One thing is necessary.” There are lots of things that you can be doing with your time, but it is necessary that you do one thing – sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what he says. No matter what else you do, if you’re not doing that, you’re missing the most important thing.
We can plant and pastor churches, start businesses, participate in city renewal initiatives, feed the homeless, manage a staff, host people in our homes, start non-profits, provide top notch education for our kids, and care for orphans and widows, but if we neglect time with Jesus, we are missing the main ingredient of life. If we aren’t cultivating a personal relationship with the Savior, all of the other stuff is empty trifling.
Hear me clearly: working hard is important. The book of Proverbs praises the diligent worker and confronts the lazy sloth who is unwilling to work. Yet the main idea of Proverbs is that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. In other words, hard work that competes with reverence for God is never wise living. It will only lead to frustration, burnout, and emptiness. As Jesus once said, “What does if profit a person to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Or what can a person give in exchange for his soul?”
Mary made the right choice. She chose to slow down and hear the voice of her Lord. She chose relationship over busyness.
When was the last time you unhurriedly sat at the feet of Jesus? Are you taking time to open up God’s Word and to say, “Speak Lord. I’m listening.”? How well are you lingering in prayer with the Father? If all of your devotional times (assuming you’re making time for them at all) are rushed, consider finding a way to carve out more time to abide with Jesus. What needs to happen so that you can listen and learn from the Master?
Some of us are busy in our “many things” but we’re neglecting the main thing. Jesus lovingly calls us to repent. Busyness is not godliness. Love for Jesus and being conformed into his image is what the Father desires of us for than anything else. Have you been seeking to advance the Kingdom without first seeking to know and love the King of the Kingdom? Perhaps you need to get your priorities in order. What would it look like to reprioritize?
Pastor of Preaching & Vision