In our culture, “resting” is not a common word in our vocabulary. Oh, we may take off a week or two for a vacation to the mountains or a trip to the lake, but once we get home its back to the crazy cycle of busy, busy, busy. So busy, in fact, that we fall across our beds exhausted, snap at other people because we’re stressed, and pop far too many aspirins for far too many headaches. When something pleasant like a family night or a birthday party arrives, we still have difficulty winding down and enjoying ourselves. According to our personal, self-published manual on life, everything has to be in order, nothing left undone for any event. Never mind that our lives are technically easier than ever with cars to take us places, dishwashers to clean our glasses, and phones to save us a walk down the street. No, our “to-do” list never ends because we keep finding necessary tasks to add to it.
It wasn’t much different in the Bible days. One well-known story of a woman addicted to busy was Martha, a close friend of Jesus. She had a servant’s heart, but according to Jesus, she failed to recognize the value of “one thing.”
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Notice that Mary “also sat at Jesus’ feet.” “Also” indicates that more than one person was occupied with listening to Jesus. They were having a Bible study! Yet not everyone seemed to appreciate the words that came out of Jesus’ mouth. Martha was in a tizzy, “distracted” with her serving. Something of value was in the room, but her attentions were drawn to a “to-do” list.
Martha was a hospitable person. She had the motivational gift of serving, and functioned in it well. It was a God-given attribute that every Christian should practice. I could imagine, as the mistress of the house, that she prided herself in it. But something crucial was missing in Martha’s servant heart. Her priorities were more toward her work than in the person of Jesus.
Martha’s misaligned priorities brought on two poor character traits that we all deal with: selfishness and offense. As she saw her sister sitting contentedly at Jesus’ feet, her fleshly emotions began to simmer like the pot of soup on the stove. The negativity finally came to the point that she was willing to go to the Messiah to complain: “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” She was officially offended at the injustice of serving alone! Sadly, she didn’t realize how selfish she was. Rather than rejoicing that her sister and others were gleaning from the Word of God while she worked, she was flustered to be working harder than they were.
Her sister and her guests were in a complete opposite state. Peacefully they sat at Jesus’ feet, soaking in every powerful word spoken. They weren’t flustered or offended, but rested in the love and peace given to them by the One who loved them enough to spend time with them.
Martha could have easily solved the problem of being “alone” if she had chosen to join them. She could have avoided a rise of blood pressure by refusing to be offended. She could have selflessly sown service to her guests so they could listen, and ultimately reaped an even greater reward. But she chose to let her obligations rule her time, resulting in giving Jesus the last of her affections.
I believe this is what has caused many Christians to be so stressed, frustrated, and broken down. We have forgotten these words from Jesus: “You are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
God cares about every area of our lives, every responsibility we carry. But He never meant for those responsibilities to take the place of communion with Him. He knows well that putting Him last will result in stress, strain, and a lack of peace. He knows that His Word and presence are the only things that will fulfill us and give us the grace we need to carry out our to-do list.
Jesus put aside His heavenly role in order to spend time with us. He didn’t do it simply to bless us for three years by giving us a little temporary taste of Heaven. He did it so we could eternally know what it was like to fellowship with Him, here on the earth as well as in Heaven. Though what time we could give Him could never repay that love, we have the ability to honor Him by putting Him first above every other to-do list.
I am confident that if we would make Jesus’ presence our first priority, we would see many positive changes in our lives. Peace would come to our chaotic situations. A clear mind would come to our confusion. Healing would come to our broken pieces. And joy would come to our sadness. Every need would be met in God’s presence. Every God-designed to-do list would be fulfilled in His time and His excellence. We need only to realize and trust that we need Him more than we need to accomplish “things.” Everything else fades into insignificance next to Him.
Let’s not allow the business of life “take away” our precious time with Jesus. He’s waiting, eagerly and lovingly, for a piece of our time. Our only need is to see His presence for what it truly is. Not as an afterthought or an optional ornament to our day. Not as an emergency shelter when storms come through. But a sacred place that we can share with only Him, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It’s that “good part” that could never be replaced or satisfied by something better. It’s a piece of Heaven on earth if we will only enter in.
Personal Note: This may be a more lengthy article than usual, but I feel very strongly about it. I cried while writing it, realizing how far we’ve come in our culture from truly being a disciple of Jesus. How it must grieve Him when we neglect Him as being that “good part.” This is my New Years resolution – to make sure He is #1 everyday! I would love to know your thoughts on this article. – Christa