Today while going through my reading of scripture, I came across a passage that throws in the word “anxious”, which has been grabbing my attention more and more as I realize how detrimental anxiousness is in a believer’s life. Aside from the fact that anxiousness is essentially a manifestation of the lacking faith in God’s sovereignty and provision, anxiousness is stressful and can affect a lot of your life. It took me awhile to realize that I was an anxious person, but thank the Lord for the sanctification that comes through marriage!
I found myself in Luke 10:38-42 (ESV), which goes like this:
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 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.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and trouble about many things, but one thing is necessary, Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’
This is one of those passages where the meaning is pretty straight forward and it follows the theme of Jesus’s teachings about anxiousness, which appear soon after this passage in chapter 12 (see 12:22-31 of the gospel of Luke). Despite how straight forward this passage is in what it is trying to convey, sometimes it takes a smack over the head from the Holy Spirit for it to actually click. One of the things I try to always remember is that we can always have knowledge of something, but until that knowledge becomes understanding, it is useless. If I don’t understand the truth and only know it, it doesn’t do much good.
Jesus, in Luke 10:41-42 tells Martha that in the midst of all her worries that one thing is necessary and that Mary has chosen that one thing. Now, this speaks a lot to those who work themselves to death in the church and it speaks to those who work themselves to death outside of the church. How many times have I been a Martha? How many times have you been a Martha? I’m a Martha all of the time, honestly. I’m always trying to figure out what things I can do for Jesus instead of focusing on Jesus himself! If you’re just trying to serve Jesus all of the time, you’re going to miss actually spending time with him, right? I would say that this is a matter of priorities, and there is something else that is important to note…
We are told that Martha was distracted with serving and that she was anxious and troubled by Mary’s lack of help in the situation. It wasn’t her work for Jesus and the disciples that were problematic, but it is when she lost the plot of her work that things got dicey. Busy work does not really equate to devotion to God. While Martha’s serving was surly appreciated by the disciples and Jesus, she was distracted by serving and lost focus on the one thing that was necessary.
I want to get a bit real here as I attend classes that focus on biblical studies, I’m not always studying unto the Lord, but to get a grade. I admit this, and I will admit that in my most recent class I was answering questions without reading the book because the material wasn’t new. The problem being, that the material was for our devotional period of the course, but I have enough devotional material in my life. The point being sometimes we are just doing it for the grade, but in other cases such as Martha’s we are doing it for Jesus, but without Jesus it is irrelevant, futile, and meaningless. A bit harsh choice of words, but I feel like they are necessary for those of us who struggle with this.
Only one thing is necessary and so lets choose to be Mary here. Spend time listening to Christ and don’t let your work for Christ rip the one necessity from you. Work for Christ, but don’t let it be filled with anxiety and trouble or you may have just lost the point of your work. This goes out to those who take on too much, who don’t say no to “opportunities”, and to the anxious in general.
John MacArthur on Luke 42,
Jesus was not speaking of the number of dishes to be served. The one thing necessary was exemplified by Mary (i.e, an attitude of worship and meditation), listening with an open mind and heart to Jesus’ words.