“…A woman named Martha welcomed [Jesus] 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)
Beloved, before Jesus tells us to serve, He first calls us to Himself to teach us and to fill us with His grace and Spirit for service. Before we serve, let us first learn to sit. There are many distractions in each age. How can good and lawful blessings and activities like hospitality, service, jobs, raising our children, and even loving our families potentially become distractions that can be spiritually dangerous to us?! When these things take priority over spending time listening and learning at Jesus’ feet. How are you doing with this?
Martha was serving; she was a Christian woman seeking to honor Jesus. She was taking seriously the Bible’s teaching on hospitality, and the need to feed others. Martha wanted to feed Jesus, but Jesus wanted to feed Mary and her. As Richard Sibbes put it well: “Christ came to feast them, not to feast with them.” There was disorder in Martha’s heart; while her intentions were noble, her affections were confused at this moment. Her “excessive zeal for temporal provisions, made her forget for a time, the things of her soul” (J. C. Ryle), while Mary sought what was good (read: best). We can so easily be tempted to make something good like serving too important, and then we ask the Lord to bless our idolatry. This is not right.
Notice Martha’s self-pity and ungrateful attitude that are common fruits of disordered loves: “Lord, do you not care…tell her…” We are tempted sometimes to tell the Lord what is most important, rather than sitting at His feet and learning what is most important to Him. Our hearts need to be ordered with Christ having the priority; He must be our first love, and our first priority at all times. But notice the Lord Jesus’ tender address to his own: “Martha, Martha…one thing is necessary.” Jesus is not angry, but patient with his own. We are His beloved brothers and sisters; we are His dear ones. He speaks our names tenderly putting a firm and fixed focus on Himself so that we can be reminded what matters most. And what does he promise his beloved? The good portion. Don’t you want that!?
But you ask: “What is this?” It is simply Jesus Christ. Jesus is our good portion (Psa. 16:5; 73:26; Lam. 3:24). Time with Jesus is our good portion. This is the only thing that will ultimately last—the only thing that will ultimately satisfy the longings of our souls—and this good thing will last and satisfy us for all eternity. O, to sit at Jesus’ feet! What a privilege. It is at Jesus’ feet where we get focused on WHO matters most, and this is where our loves are properly ordered and we are made effective, Gospel-driven, and Grace-motivated servants. Are you satisfied with having Jesus as your portion? Can you honestly say with the Psalmist:
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you… But for me it is good to be near God…” (Psalm 73:25, 28b).
Stop what you’re doing today. Ask yourself: What is the one thing that is necessary for me right now? You may have a schedule full of wonderful, God-given and lawful activities, but are you aware that these can potentially be keeping you from what, or WHO you need the most?
How can I specifically keep the focus on the one thing necessary in a world of distractions? Here are some suggestions that often help me:
(1) Order: Order your loves and needs under Christ’s Lordship, following His command to “Seek first the kingdom…” (Matt. 6:33). Jesus sets our spiritual pattern and life-pace of seeking first the kingdom by calling each Lord’s Day to worship Him and to sit at His feet both in preaching and at the Lord’s Table. Let us learn to sit without distractions, so that we can learn, and then go serve in the power of the Spirit (Acts 2:41ff).
(2) Watch: Watch becoming too entangled with the “cares of this life” (2 Tim. 2:4). Ask yourself the important question: “What are my main distractions and “time-wasters” (Eph. 5:15-17)? And then rid your life of them to the best of your ability. J. C. Ryle wrote: “Except we watch and pray, [cares of this world] will eat up our spirituality, and bring leanness to our souls.” Excellent advice!
(3) Remind: Remind yourself of the most important goals—what is your main intention in each of your activities? Is it to glorify God and enjoy Him forever? Don’t get distracted in your service for Jesus and miss Jesus, and the wonderful privilege of knowing Him as your friend and walking with Him in constant communion.
(4) Gospel Goals: Every morning consider what is most needful and necessary for your day. Ask such questions as: Have I renewed my covenant with God in Christ with renewed repentance in response to His kind mercies (Lam. 3:22-25)? Have I prayed and reminded myself of the love of God in Christ for myself and my family? Am I being watchful, sober-minded, and preparing myself for Jesus’ coming (1 Peter 1:13; Titus 2:11-14)? Am I prepared for temptations that inevitably will come my way (James 4:6-8)? Am I ready to meet the needs of others through self-denial?
Beloved, Jesus said: “Martha, Martha” to awaken her to her great need for His grace! She thought she needed help in a particular way, but Jesus kindly showed her that in her busyness she did not realize her true need. This same Jesus calls you by name today, having justified you in God’s sight, and made you an heir with him through His loving sacrifice on the cross. Now He desires for you to sit undistracted and listen prayerfully as He speaks truth to you so that you might change and grow. This is the love of Jesus for sinners saved by grace, and grace is good because it makes us good.
Now find some time to sit—at His feet. It will be the best time spent. Period. Amen.
Love in Christ,