My heart was troubled this morning with a question. When it comes to serving the Lord in whatever capacity, is it acceptable to organize, plan, prepare, or is that all a waste of time? Could it bear good fruit, or is it all carnality? Is there eternal value in it, or just dross for the fire?
I took it to the Lord. He took me to the Word. And again, He blew Me away with a stunning answer within the folds of an old, familiar story— the Mary/Martha conundrum. It’s in Luke 10:38-42
Jewish hospitality was a serious business. Having friends and family in the home to break bread together was an intimacy and privilege we Western types will never understand. Women spent days and days preparing for special dinners. Which means, both Martha and Mary planned. Both women prepared. Both women worked. And this was no regular dinner guest.
The two of them were busy readying the house—sweeping, dusting, cooking, fluffing. The meal courses were laid out, grocery shopping was done, checklists were checked and rechecked. There were so many details, so many small things that could be easily neglected if not tended.
The Lord was coming over. It had to be right, indeed, perfect.
When Jesus arrived in town, Martha ushered Him inside with a warm welcome and returned to her tasks.
But Mary stopped. She stopped working and sat. She sat to listen to the Logos speak. She sat to learn from the Living Word. She sat at the feet of Jesus.
Mary stopped working and worshipped, “but Martha was distracted with much serving.”
When Martha complained, the Lord said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
I know this story, I say to the Lord. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and Martha got in trouble. Worship, not work, that is what we are to do.
Even now, I sit back and shake my head.
The Greek word distracted in this text means “Drawn away”
Martha was not scolded for preparing, or planning, or organizing. She was not shamed for wanting her home to be a place the Lord would enjoy. She was not punished for grocery shopping and preparing a meal. How was the Lord going to eat if she hadn’t? What kind of host would she be if there was no water for washing, or chair swept clean for Him to sit?
Martha’s misstep was profoundly simple: She remained distracted FROM Jesus after He arrived, from the One she was prepping for in the first place, from the One who was now actually sitting in her living room, in that clean chair.
Jesus showed up, but she wouldn’t stop! The serving drew her away from Jesus, drew her away from sitting at His feet, drew her away from simply worshipping.
So, what’s the answer to my questions? “One thing is necessary.” Vs. 42
The heart-check for me is this: Be Mary. Yes! By all means, plan, organize, prepare, lay the groundwork for smooth service to the King, and to others. But, when Jesus shows up, put the broom down, and sit. Choose the good portion. Let the work dim let your worship rise.
One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life
To gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.