The story of Mary and Martha is challenging for me. As someone who believes that we are on Earth for a purpose and a mission, simply sitting back and listening – even to Jesus Himself – seems like more of a detriment to fulfilling a life’s purpose than a help. And, what’s more, for Jesus to state that to sit at His feet and listen is “the good portion” is even more challenging to my beliefs.
Much of my background has been one that stresses meeting standards – standards that I set for myself and standards that have been set by others. One standard that I set for myself is a sense of accomplishment. I desire deeply wanting to accomplish great things and to feel significant. While I like to think this is rooted in a desire to serve the Lord, I know that much of it is probably a pride-grab at feeling significant and leaving a legacy.
The verse in Psalm 51 has been in and out of my mind lately: “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” The truth in this verse is that we can’t serve God adequately – ever. And the good news is that He doesn’t need serving. He will use it, for certain, but He doesn’t need it. The key is that we serve as a result of His grace, not to earn anything. And we so easily switch the order. Even when we’re theologically correct, and we know grace received precedes service, we functionally live out the opposite. Nowhere do we see this more obviously than in Luke 10:38-42.
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 troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, ESV)
So, if service isn’t our top priority, what is? Scripture says that “the good portion” is sitting and resting at the feet of Jesus. Why is this? I think that maybe the reason is that we are at our most fulfilled and at our most “Christ-filled,” for lack of a better term, when we are simply learning from Him. I don’t think we were made to run to Jesus, get some energy, and then run off to use that energy on other people. Instead, I think that we were made to constantly live in the presence of Jesus. The result, then, is a life that isn’t a testimony because it serves more or does more, but because it has sat at the feet of and learned from the One that gives us a purpose to live that transcends anything our world offers. This is what is attractive to people – not more duty and responsibility. Maybe this is why this passage encourages people like me to be a little more like Mary.
Over the next two weeks, five guest authors consider our modern world in light of Luke 10:38-42 in Missio on Martha and Mary:
- On Wednesday Ryan Burns considers the first years after college for young Millenials in Finding Nemo…and Dory…and Me.
- On Friday Kate Moody gives words to our common empathy with Martha in Maybe Mary’s Right, but Martha’s Me.
- Next Monday Mary Mitchum considers our continuous business in Martha’s Defense Mechanism.
- Next Wednesday Laura Davis considers our motivations for service in Serving as Mary, Serving as Martha.
- Next Friday Will Thompson meditates on the current trend to “live simply” in Wait, Few Things are Needed?
Logan Powell is a graduate of the 2015-2016 Capital Fellows Program.
Images:FreeImages.com/Mihai Eustatiu, Henry Chan