As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village (Bethany) where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
Don’t Miss the Main Thing
Author Anne Cetas tells of watching a fireworks display, but getting distracted. Off to the right and left of the main event, smaller fireworks shot up in the sky. These sideshows were good, but watching them caused Anne to miss the best parts of the more spectacular display directly above her.1 Stephen Covey says: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
Martha, Mary, and their brother, Lazarus were close friends of Jesus. Martha may have been the older sister and welcomed Christ into her home. She was a good hostess and was preparing a meal for her guests. She was imitating God who feeds us; that’s a good thing.2 If Jesus and the Twelve and all of Martha’s family were there, that makes at least sixteen people. Martha got distracted. Maybe she was making the meal a bigger deal than it needed to be. Maybe she was juggling too many pots and pans. Martha complained to Christ that Mary wasn’t helping her enough. On this occasion, Jesus defended Mary’s choice to sit at His feet and learn from Him. Mary wasn’t better or more spiritual than Martha. John chapter 11 shows that Martha was a woman of strong faith in Christ and devotion to Him. But on this occasion, Mary made the wisest choice. Christ had announced in Luke chapter 9 that He was going to Jerusalem to be crucified for our sins and then raised from the grave to give us new life. All of Jesus’ life and ministry was important, but He was now marching toward His main event. Martha was busy serving, and that was good, but right now, listening to Jesus was more important. That’s the highest priority.
The Lord says: Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.3
Jesus invites us to come to Him for living water and spiritual food. Money is unnecessary. We bring to God only our faith and trust in Him and we freely receive all that He has to give us. Our entrance into the Lord’s family is free, and our growth in the Christian life is free. But we must look to Jesus to receive from His hand. Many of the things that we pour our time, money, labor into cannot satisfy our souls. So the Psalmist prays: Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.4 Jesus says: I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly, to overflowing, in the fullest possible way.5
John Newton’s Hymn
John Newton (1725-1807) was an English pastor and hymnwriter. Before becoming a Christian, Newton led a wild and wicked life. He worked on slave ships and was himself enslaved for a time in West Africa. Newton authored the hymns “Amazing Grace,” “Glorious Things of God Are Spoken,” and nearly 300 others. Here is a lesser-known hymn by Newton based on Luke 10:38-42:
1. Martha her love and joy expressed, By care to entertain her guest;
While Mary sat to hear her Lord, And could not bear to lose a word.
2. The principle in both the same, Produced in each a different aim;
The one to feast the Lord was led, The other waited to be fed.
3. But Mary chose the better part, Her Savior’s words refreshed her heart;
While busy Martha angry grew, And lost her time and temper too.
4. With warmth she to her sister spoke, But brought on herself Jesus’ rebuke;
One thing is needful, and but one, Why do your thoughts on many run?
5. How oft are we like Martha vexed, Encumbered, hurried, and perplexed!
While trifles so engross our thought, The one thing needful is forgot.
6. Lord teach us this one thing to choose, Which they who gain can never lose;
Sufficient in itself alone, And needful, were the world our own.
7. Let humble hearts the world admire, Christ’s love is all that I require!
Gladly I may the rest resign, If the one needful thing be mine!6
John Piper says: “Satan devotes 168 hours a week trying to deceive you. Do you think you can maintain a renewed mind with a ten-minute glance at God’s book once a day?”
When we listen to Christ first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love for the Lord and trusting and obeying Him re-orders our priorities for our time, talent, treasure, and everything else.
To be continued.
Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Our Daily Bread, November 2015. 2 Deut 10:18; Job 36:31; Psalm 146:7; 2 Cor 9:10, and many other Scriptures. 3 Isaiah 55:1-3. 4 Psalm 90:14. 5 John 10:10. 6 John Newton, 1779, from Olney Hymns, Vol. 1, Hymn 100.