If you were to ask me on any given day how my day was, nine times out of
ten my response would probably be busy. Class from 8:30-9:45 and 10:00-11:15, hitting up the library for homework from 11:30 to who knows when, lab from 2:30-5:20, intramural games after lab, maybe dinner if I have time, and then hopefully there are a few extra minutes in there to shower before worship at 8:00. Life just never seems to slow down.
It’s so easy to get distracted by all the things we must do that we end up neglecting the one thing we actually need: Jesus. But in these busy seasons, I cling to the story of Mary and Martha and pray that I would daily find myself at the feet of Jesus with no distractions and a heart fixed on His word.
Let’s take a look at this story in Luke 10:
38 As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her. (ASV)
Let’s talk about Martha first. In verse 38 we see that Martha opened her doors to Jesus…off to a good start. Then verse 40 it says she was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.
How often do we invite Jesus into our day and then neglect Him as we become distracted by the many things on our to do lists? The truth is, these things are not always bad things. Martha was not neglecting Jesus to be rude, she was trying to make preparations for Him to make Him comfortable in her home.
It’s the same way with us. For me, I’m currently in two small groups, I’m preparing for an upcoming mission trip, I’m in a leadership role for a campus ministry, and I’m also juggling classes and relationships. None of these are bad things. In fact, they can all be very good things that matter for eternity. However, we see that Jesus tells Martha in verse 42, “Few things are needed-or indeed only one.” If we neglect the source of life, we will begin feeling drained of life.
I once heard a pastor say, “If it isn’t in the well, it won’t come up in the bucket.” We cannot serve others and point them to Jesus if we’ve not first been at his feet and filled ourselves with Christ through the Word and prayer. We cannot let service to God come before our devotion to God, but rather let our devotion to God fuel our service to Him.
I love how honest Martha was with Jesus. In verse 40 she says, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” And instead of rebuking her, Jesus gives a gentle answer. Jesus knows our thoughts and frustrations; he honors our honesty and gently calms us by leading us to His presence. I really admire that in Martha’s frustration, she knows who to go to first. She recognizes that Jesus is the one who can fix the wrong in her life and runs to Him.
But let’s also notice what upset her. When Martha saw Mary sitting with Jesus instead of helping her, she was upset. She compared her circumstances to her sister’s and allowed that to frustrate her.
Comparison breeds discontentment in our lives and ends up with us thinking we’re holding the short end of the stick. However, comparison is tricky because it only allows us to see snippets of the whole picture. To Martha, it seemed that her sister was neglecting their responsibilities and leaving Martha to handle all the preparations herself. But what Mary was truly doing was choosing what is better by sitting at Jesus’ feet and learning from Him.
You know that girl on social media who’s always posting beautiful pictures with a smile plastered on her face and an exotic location in the background? You long for a life like hers, feeling less-than when you look at your Instagram feed to realize the only place you’ve posted from was the campus library. But what you cannot see is that she is struggling. She lost her job, her parents are getting a divorce, her boyfriend is abusing her, and so on. Let’s not allow comparison to steal our joy, because most of the time we don’t even know the whole story.
Now let’s talk about Mary. We know from verse 39 that she “sat at the Lord’s feet,
listening to what he said,” and from verse 42 that she chose the only thing that was needed, and it was “better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Even in the face of many responsibilities, Mary put them aside so that she could first be with Jesus.
Deuteronomy 8:3b says, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Mary knew that the things of life would eventually pass away, but that time with the Lord would never be taken from her. It would satisfy her spiritual hunger.
I pray that we would not let our busyness crowd out the essential time we need with the Lord and that we would do as Matthew 6:33 says: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.”
It’s time to put the busy schedule and distractions aside and spend time in the presence of our sweet Jesus. He daily gives us the opportunity to be in communion with Him, and I pray that we would not neglect that opportunity, but take advantage of it knowing that time can never be taken from us.
Let’s follow Mary’s example believing, “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).