As I sat down to write this morning’s sermon I thought of at least ten things that I could have been doing in that time. Each thing calling and demanding my time away from sitting and waiting upon the Lord. And each of them seemed very good…well most of them, at one point the thought of going and jumping in the lake and forgetting about everything else that needed to be done passed through my mind. But all the other things were legitimate things that needed to be done.
Phone calls to return. Emails to be written. Website computer issues to be worked through. I thought to myself…I can do these things. New changes in the society’s act that necessitate changes in our bylaws and guidelines. With help I can do that too. And then there were people wanting just a few minutes to chat. Nothing wrong with that. I like to do that. People needing prayer…yup I like to do that to!
A short chat turns into a one-hour or so counselling session. Yup did that too. Then I notice a few things that need to be done around the church. So there too I look at it and say I think I can do that. And soon it’s noon, then 1pm and I haven’t spent the time sitting with the Lord that I had planned for that day. But I did do something. Truth is I like to do.
Is it always good advice? “Just do something!”?
Some might say I was being Spirit lead to do the things that mattered most to GOD. Frankly I’ve used that phrase and that excuse many of times to rationalize my constant need to be doing something. And doing something is always better than not doing isn’t it? Or is it?
Turn in your Bible with me to Luke 10:38-42. And let’s see what the Master had to say about just doing something!
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village 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 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!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42:NIV)
This passage bugs me. It grinds at my doing mentality like iron on the sharping stone. I feel Martha’s pain! When there are things needing to be done, “pitter-patter let’s get at her!” The job isn’t going to do itself.
I like do. I’m not so good with sit and listen. But I’ve found ways to do that too!
Clearly Martha was planning a big event to invite people to come be with Jesus as He and the disciples were on their way to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. This was their stop over before reaching the hallowed grounds. Though she couldn’t have known it, this would be the last time Martha would prepare and serve a meal to Jesus. Not that it would have made a difference to Martha for she would have fussed over Him and put on the spread anyway because that was the way she was wired.
We all know that every event, small or large, takes a Martha if people are going to be fed. Thank God for Marthas!
Even if only the twelve disciples and Jesus showed up there would be much to do, food to fetch, meals to make, cleaning the house and the outhouse. Lots and lots of preparations. Martha’s favourite word is do! She is a doer if there ever was one.
I’m so thankful we have plenty of Martha’s in our midst here at Grace because the church would likely come to a screeching halt without them.
Clearly from our passage Martha enjoys showing proper hospitality. She wants things to be just so. And so she was busy preparing for her guests. This was not a bad thing. Clearly her gift was hospitality and she utilized well.
Did you notice that word “distracted” in there? It actually only appears once in the Greek, right there in verse 40. So I can’t take you all over the scriptures to see how it is used. But Greek scholars tell us the meaning is still very clear.
Martha was anxious, running here and there, her mind was not focused on Jesus it was focused on preparations. She was “a bit scatter brained” to use the modern vernacular.
Remember, it’s not that the job she was doing didn’t need to be done, it did. They needed to eat, but perhaps a less elaborate single course meal would have sufficed? It was a matter of priorities.
To Martha more elaborate obviously meant more than keeping it simple so she could spend more time with Jesus. Either way the meal would eventually get done.
The issue was it just wasn’t time for doing no matter how anxious Martha was. It was time for being with Jesus. She was distracted by doing.
Unfortunately, she allowed all those things that had to be done to nag at her mercilessly. She couldn’t even pause to worship Jesus if the lamb stew wasn’t seasoned, and the unleavened bread dough ready to go hours before the evening meal. To Martha there will be time later when the work was finished to visit with Jesus. So she gave Mary the look. The look that says don’t just sit there do something. And when that didn’t work she complained to Jesus about Mary’s inactivity hoping that He would persuade Mary to do something even though she was already doing something better.
Many Christians today are like distract drivers with their relationship with Jesus. They are so busy with doing they don’t have time to be with Jesus.
Busyness becomes a distraction better than anything else. Too busy for church, too busy to pray, too busy to read the word…is basically telling Jesus who saved you that you are too busy to be with Him, could He come back later. And we can even be too busy doing things for Jesus to notice that He’s here right now to be with us. Martha shows us that. She was so distracted by what she was doing for Jesus that she basically ignored Him.
Have you noticed, over the years, that when I lead the service off I almost always start with a prayer to the effect of, “Lord help us to push away the business of this day, the things planned for this afternoon and later, and help us to enter into your presence and really be here, to rest at your feet and to worship you with all our hearts”.
I pray this because I have found over the years that sometimes I’m just as distracted by the things about to happen in the service that I don’t enter into worship as I ought. This sacred time on Sunday morning needs to be guarded from distractions no matter how important they may seem to be.
This sacred hour needs to be guarded from the world that is trying its level best to distract us to just do something. In fact, the world would have us do anything rather than sitting in church and worshipping in the Master presence. And let me tell you this, in order for Martha to do what she is gifted to do she needs to first be holy or her labours will be in vain.
The Bible says, “be holy even as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14). Often we hear that word Holy and think it means being super pious, or righteous, perhaps even very disciplined. And well these adjectives describe things that are holy the word in the Greek and the Hebrew itself basically means to set apart or set aside. You can make something Holy by setting it apart for God. Because Jesus is holy those who belong to Him who have the Spirit of God within them are in the process of being transformed into holiness. Transformed into His likeness. Jesus was set apart by God to do what only God could do. And He did so only after spending time in prayer with His Father in Heaven. He didn’t add that to His day Jesus added His day to the outworking of His time with the Father. Each day for Him was a holiday.
This service time is holy, or at least it should be. It should be spending time apart with the Master and His people. It’s not about doing church…it’s about being His church. Being separated unto Him.
What Mary did in our passage today, “sitting and listening to the Master’s words”(39) was an act of being holy. Frankly every time we see Mary in the Bible she sets aside the ordinary for time to be with the extraordinary. In John 11:42 we see her at Jesus feet pouring out her heart because her brother has died. In John 12:3 Mary takes an expensive jar of perfume and anoints Jesus feet in front of the whole group. If you want to be more holy spend more time with Jesus and you cannot help but be holy because He is Holy.
That is the difficult part that many Christians fail to recognize without someone pointing it out to them. It is in taking time to be holy, taking time apart with Jesus, that we find the wisdom and strength to do something for Jesus. Not the other way around.
Mary had chosen the better thing Jesus said. Which is not to say that what Martha was doing was sinful. It just wasn’t the best. Not for her or for their current situation. It only caused her anxiousness and disrupted what it was that she was hoping to do in the first place. Namely helping people to come and be with Jesus.
In Martha’s mind things needed to be done before being with Jesus. So Jesus said, “… only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (42). Only one thing! Not ten. If Martha wanted to be with Jesus she’d needed to stop and be holy.
Martha’s distractedness was a clear sign that she needed to calm down, take a chill pill as they say today, focus on and worship the Lord. When you do you find the things of this earth don’t scatter your thoughts quite as much. Your attitude improves and the irritations subside. When you begin with focusing on the Lord the rest seems to fall into place.
Remember that verse in 1st Corinthians 13 that the Pastor likely read at your wedding? It may have seemed out of place then but it really wasn’t.
“If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3 (NIV). You can do great things for wrong reasons and in the end it amounts to nothing. But with the love of God that Paul is talking about in that passage all things are possible.
The Bible Exposition Commentary puts it quite simple. “It seems evident that the Lord wants each of us to imitate Mary in our worship and Martha in our work.” (– Be Compassionate (Luke 1-13). Both attributes are important but without the one the other is only work. So don’t just do something…sit first with Jesus and hear His word and then just do it!
Someone once said, “What we do with Jesus is far more important than what we do for Jesus” (unknown).
1. Are you typically a doer? Someone who prefers to do something?
2. Do you leave the clean-up of your home to just before guests arrive? Or are you prepared long before they come?
3. Read today’s passage in several versions if possible.
4. What was Martha wanting to do for Jesus and His disciples? (Luke 10:38; 2 John 1:10 )
5. What do we learn about Mary in verse 39? (Luke 10:39; see also John 11:1-5; 12:1-3)
6. What was Mary doing while Jesus was talking? (Luke 10:39; Deut 33:3; Proverbs 8:34; 1 Cor. 7:32)
7. What was Martha’s state of mind? (Luke 10:40; see also Luke 12:29; John 6:27)
8. What did Martha accuse Jesus of? (Luke 10:40; Mt. 6:32; 14:15; see also Psalm 121:3; Psalm 8:4)
9. How did Martha feel about what Mary was doing? (Luke 10:40; Luke 8:14; Prov. 14:30; 1 Cor. 13:5; James 3:16)
10. What did Martha ask Jesus to do? (Luke 10:40)
11. What did Jesus do with Martha’s request? (Luke 10:41; Mark 4:19; Phil 4:6; 1 Cor. 7:35; )
12. How was Mary’s choice better than Martha’s according to Jesus? (Luke 10:41-42; Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 18:22; Psalm 27:4; Psalm 73:25; Psalm 119:11; John 10:27-28; John 17:3; Mark 8:36;* 1 John 5:11-12)
13. What events are coming up in which you need to focus on being a student of Christ?
14. What can you do this week to help a friend so that he or she can have more time to pray or read the Bible?