by Ricky Loach
Luke 10:38-42 English Standard Version (ESV)
Martha and Mary
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus[a] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.[b] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Do you feel the chains? Do you realize how they weigh down every action you trudge through? No matter what level of nobility or godliness your works attain, the flavor always evolves into a bitterness mere moments upon completion. The biting, stinging insect of worry picked and nipped until no satisfaction could really be found in any of these acts. Isn’t life about purpose? Isn’t purpose found in doing acts of service for others? This line of thought will either destroy us or lead us to the truth.
Every one of us will indeed face this challenge and all but a small handful will fail to realize the full implications of how serious it is. I would even dare to venture into a statement of suggested apathy in our works. We do need to do things. We are engineered to worship an infinite Creator and when we start to comprehend the depths of what worship is we find very quickly that doing stuff literally is worship, if our hearts are in the right place.
Now, I am not writing today about worship, so if you have qualms with my proceeding sentence regarding such then, it is suggested that you hold them at bay and join with me in focusing on the real topic: resting in high priority.
The Bible has a lot to say about priorities. Literally, the whole of the Old Testament is about priorities. There are a few passages that I look to in order to gain a greater understanding about this, but no one passage captures my attention as much as the story of Martha and Mary in Luke. A quick review of the text suggests a hero, Mary, and Martha, both of which are involved in personal battles over priorities. I would submit to you in very, VERY plain language that, aside from our Lord and Savior, there are no heroes in scripture. Be reminded of a lens through which this story must be viewed in order to draw the full effect; Martha invited Jesus in. That’s right, the fool of the hour, the dupe in which the majority of places their scorn is the very person who called the Savior of the human race and asked Him to spend some time in their home. I only say this to accomplish one thing, to bring Mary and Martha onto the equal playing field of absolute wretches saved by the grace of God. Under the pretense that no one can merit ANYTHING with God outside of His sovereign grace we are allowed to gain some really great insight into how we should prioritize.
Firstly, Jesus never said that Martha was doing something bad. The translation even comes across as Christ simply saying that what Mary chose was the best, no good over bad. Jesus would never say that works done in the name of God were bad. Martha appeared to be doing the very thing that all Christians should do: love Jesus so much that works are a result of that love.
There is, however, a much more sinister and hidden problem that Martha and so many of us face in situations like this: we try to find our satisfaction in our works instead of the person of Christ. Do you recall the chains I mentioned in the very beginning of this post? Martha is weighed down by those chains. She is so worried with the work that she has forgotten why she is doing work in the first place. As soon as we lose sight of the fact that true satisfaction can only come from sitting at the feet of of our Savior and resting in Him, we will most assuredly turn work into a burden. The proof of this can be found in Christ’s own words when He rebukes Martha: “you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” Crazy right? Jesus basically states that the only “work” that must be done in this situation is actually resting in Him.
I am sure that many would try to formulate some foul logic about how rest is a work that we perform but a simple gaze into the position of Mary will quickly dispel this thought. Resting in Christ as our first priority should not look like other actions we take. It should be the spiritual equivalent to Mary’s state of literally sitting at Jesus’ feet and enjoying Him. From this place all of our actionable works should flow. This is where the desire to serve others simply as a godly act comes from. To take in the Savior of reality will cause you to overflow with love and desire to do things for Him.
Practically this whole process comes down to one question every Christian should ask himself daily: “Am I trying to find my worth and satisfaction in my works, or am I filled with Christ and simply cannot help myself?” Turn to Christ, my friends. Give up. Give in. Stop striving and start resting. You will never find satisfaction in your works apart from Christ. You require infinity to be satisfied and temporal works simply cannot fill that desire.
(originally published in the March/April 2016 edition of Road Signs)