Years ago, I sat down with someone to discuss them working on a very important article for a publication I was working on. I loved how I watched the “lights go on” in their eyes about ideas as soon as I began talking. I could tell they were excited to write and I knew it would be good.
A couple of weeks later, they sent me a draft of the story, and it was good, in fact, it was very good… it just wasn’t on the topic I asked them to write about. Apparently, the “lights going on” in their eyes was mistaken on my part for creativity in their mind instead of the more important assignment at hand, in fact, the very reason they were writing for me.
I regretted they had spent so much time working on this article, it was really good, it just didn’t fit the theme of the publication. It’s easy to get way ahead of ourselves with good and important things, even in serving God, and miss the most important thing, hearing from Him. In fact, far too often, our busyness in serving can crowd out our listening.
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:38-42 KJV
I imagine Jesus would be a pretty important houseguest and given Martha’s careful attention to hosting, I’m fairly confident her home was ready. Surely, she wouldn’t have invited Him otherwise. But after Jesus arrives, we read that Mary, Martha’s sister, joins them and as the passage reads, at least in English, “also” sat at Jesus’ feet.
Reading the passage “also” sitting doesn’t seem to fit, it would seem that Martha is doing little, if any sitting and the Greek seems to support this. At the very least it indicates only Mary was doing the listening so chances are Martha wasn’t doing either, sitting or listening.
Then, frustrated with the lack of participation of serving her guest, Martha implores Jesus to ask Mary to help. By now she is clearly flustered. The literal description of her current state of mind with Jesus as her houseguest was distracted, over occupied, anxious, and troubled. That certainly doesn’t seem to be a fitting response for a hostess, but particularly not when Jesus is your guest. But in the kindest of ways, Jesus responds to her, even in her distracted way of thinking. Martha, you are clearly distressed about being a good hostess, but believe it or not, what Mary is doing: sitting, listening, is exactly where she needs to be. SHE has chosen the right response to my visit.
It is so easy to over burden ourselves in service, to be that distracted, that preoccupied, that we haven’t even realized we can’t even hear Him. The most liberating, strategic, hospitable, teachable, and helpful position we could place ourselves in, to insure we could be most effectively used for His service, begins at Jesus feet. It would be such a shame to invest great amounts of time in life serving, only to learn that we weren’t focused on the right assignment.
Dr. Ronald J. Barnes, Jr.
May 3, 2022