Seems like an odd question for a guy to ask himself, but it is an important one in the life of a Christian. We were visiting Terri's home church
in Hutch today and the pastor, Rick
, was discussing the Transfiguration
. Along the way he quoted a very profound passage in Luke about two sisters, Mary and Martha. This is a challenging passage because it serious challenges the way most churches in America operate. It's a personal challenge for me because I find myself identifying with Martha when I ought to identify myself with Mary.
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
Essentially, Christ has told Martha that Mary really has the right idea and that Martha is choosing a lesser way. Jesus doesn't exactly rebuke Martha, but you do get the feeling that he's at least scolding her a bit for her attitude.
I've heard some messages in the past where the pastor has tried to say that Martha was doing a good thing until she tried to get Jesus to scold Mary, but that's not at all what I read here. Jesus starts with, "Martha, Martha," which already sounds like scolding to me, I suppose I could be misreading this through the lens of my own culture, but that's what it reads to me.
He continues, "you are anxious and troubled about many things." This can't be complimentary. Christ has already been on the record as scolding his disciples for worrying about food and clothing. "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" (Matthew 6:27
ESV) Similarly, he is telling Martha that all her fussing isn't really necessary, "but only one thing is necessary." Focus on Christ, that's the one thing. He's tell Martha, "really, you should stop fussing and listen to me because my teaching is way more important than your preparations."
Now, don't get me wrong, he's not telling Martha she's being foolish or that her effort has been wasted. He's merely telling her that of the two things she could be doing now, listening to his teaching is the better. If Martha had gone about her preparations content, it seems that we might not have even had this object lesson recorded for us.
Fortunately, Martha's bad attitude was remembered well enough that it was recorded for us to read because this little vignette tells us something important: dedication to Jesus is more important than working to serve him. What did Mary do? She "sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching." She wasn't really doing anything but listening.
The lesson for me is that when I feel compelled to work on this project or that project in an attempt to please God, I'm not spending my time as wisely as I could if I haven't first taken the time to listen to Christ's teaching. If my focus and attitude isn't on Jesus and his ways first and foremost, I'm not really pleasing God as I could. If I'm not really pursuing my prayer and Bible study (or even just Bible reading) as the top priority in my life, I've missed it. Jesus doesn't condemn this work, but my work is really a secondary occupation to my first job of knowing Him who saved me.
For the Church, the question is, are we dedicated first and foremost to Christ's word? Or are we concerned with developing a good children's program? A good youth ministry? A good Sunday school or equipping program? Are we more concerned with developing our community than we are about knowing Jesus Christ? These are all good things and God won't condemn our efforts here, but we might find ourselves scolded on the other side of death for pursuing those works instead of pursuing Christ first.