An Encounter with God Is to Choose the Best
Luke 10:38-42 (con't)
Although it is Martha who receives Jesus into the house, it is Mary who takes time to sit at the feet of Jesus to hear His words. Martha is present, but very busy with other things around the house, which in her opinion, are more important.
While Mary sat down and listened, Martha burdened or distracted herself with all of the meal preparations. In this particular instance her preoccupation is not healthy, because not only does she miss out on what the Lord is saying, but she allows a root of bitterness to begin to grow within. She begins to resent her sister Mary and perhaps even the Lord Himself.
Martha draws close to the Lord, and like many of us often do, she tries to win Him over to her side. "Doesn't it bother you that my sister has left me to do all of the work? Don't you think Mary is being unfair? Why don't you say something to my sister for being so lazy and tell her (command her) to get up and help me?"
The Lord's response was not exactly what Martha was waiting to hear. Jesus is tender with her, but He didn't praise her for her much busy service. Jesus admonishes her. Martha had been anxious and worried about little things. Jesus recognizes her condition and the impending disaster, because He saw that she was greatly troubled. Martha, in her efforts at being the perfect hostess, has succeeded only to hurt the very relationship she was trying so hard to develop.
There's nothing wrong with being a good host or hostess and wanting to do good works, but in many cases, just like Martha, we choose the good thing instead of the best.
Only one thing should capture our focus and attention. Our singular task should be to go after the very best. If our busyness interferes with our relationship with Christ, then we should hear Jesus speaking to us just as He spoke to Martha.
In this meeting only one thing was necessary. The two women should have given their undivided attention to what Jesus had to say. Mary chose "what was better," or in this case, what was best. She sat at Jesus' feet to hear Him speak and teach. Martha chose to busy herself about the task of entertaining her guest, but in so doing she lost the benefit and fruit of their time together. She chose to not take part in the best the day had to offer.
In just a short time the fellowship would be over, the invited guest would leave, and Martha would only remember the much busy work that she had to do as she tried to entertain everyone. She would remember preparing the meal, setting the table, and cleaning up. In contrast, Mary would have eternal and joyful memories of the words that the Lord Jesus spoke to her face to face on that special day, and no one would ever be able to take that away from her.
How does this passage speak to us? Are we busy, even distracted or cumbered with life's many cares, or are we seated at the feet of Jesus hanging on every word that comes from His lips? Is ours an encounter with the Lord or are we always struggling and on the verge of almost having an encounter or trying to get ready for an encounter with God? We must always place our eyes on the singular important task at hand, that which is most necessary, and that can never be taken away. We are to choose the best part and live in the joyful midst of the real encounter with God.
Some generations ago Charles Spurgeon noted, "Martha's spirit is predominant in the church of God to a considerable extent now...All regenerated persons ought to be workers for God and with God, but let the working never swamp the believing, never let the servant be more prominent than the son….
"To labor for Christ is a pleasant thing, but beware of doing it mechanically; and this you can only prevent by diligently cultivating personal communion with Christ. My brother, it may be you will undertake so much service that your time will be occupied, and you will have no space for prayer and reading the word….
"To gather up all in one, I fear there is a great deal among us of religious activity of a very inferior sort; it concerns itself with the external of service, it worries itself with merely human efforts, and it attempts in its own strength to achieve divine results. The real working which God will accept is that which goes hand in hand with a patient waiting upon Christ….
"Do not, I pray you, neglect the spiritual for the sake of the external, or else you will be throwing away gold to gather to yourself iron, you will be pulling down the palaces of marble that you may build for yourselves hovels of clay.
"Activity, if not balanced by devotion, tends to puff us up, and so to prevent acceptance with God.
"Mary's estimate of Christ was of a truer order; she looked at him as a priest, she viewed him as a prophet, she adored him as a king, and she had heard him speak about dying, and had listened to his testimony about suffering, and dimly guessing what it meant, she prepared the precious spikenard that ere the dying should come she might anoint him....she anoints him, and is honored in the deed."