There’s no better way to begin this post than with the living and active words of Scripture. Take a moment to read this short passage slowly, asking Jesus to show you something new in His Word:
“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
I’ve read these words more times than I can count, usually when I am in a busy season of life and am searching for some reprieve from the chaos. Last night the Lord drew me back to this passage and unveiled priceless truth from this text that I hadn’t seen before. Truth that I hope I am able to bring to life to your own heart through this post. I know that ultimately my words pale in comparison to God’s words, and I pray that in the typing that the Holy Spirit speaks to you as well as my own heart. There is always work to be done in our lives. We are a constant work in progress and God is faithful to patiently mold, shape, and chisel away at our hearts, forming them to be more like His. Embrace the chiseling brush as a tool of grace, not a form of chastisement.
Over the past few years my life has undergone immense changes. Five years ago I changed my name at the altar and became one with my husband. We moved shortly after being married to a new city for my husband’s job in ministry. Along with that move we embraced the fresh start God was granting us. Instead of taking the traditional route of finding a job to work in, I decided to pursue the dreams God had woven into my heart years prior and pursue starting an online women’s ministry. We are now four years from the culmination of that dream and God has done immeasurably more than I could have imagined.
But along with the growth of this ministry, the amount of responsibilities and burdens have grown, too. Without realizing it, over the past year I’ve found myself so busy doing things for Jesus that I’ve forgotten the joy and necessity of just being with Jesus. The doing lacks power when we are not first being with Him. You might have heard it said before, but this statement rings true: “If Satan can’t make you bad he will make you busy.” That’s where I’ve found myself latley—busy beyond reason doing so many things for God that I’ve forgotten the fullness of being with Him.
NEAR JESUS, YET FAR FROM HIM
That’s why Martha’s story finds me with great comfort, conviction, and clarity. Martha’s actions weren’t all wrong; they just weren’t what was best at that moment. She was in the presence of Jesus, but her heart was not with Him. That is where she went wrong, and that is where I have gone wrong countless times in life. Martha started off well. She welcomed Jesus into her home. She had open hands and a willingness to host the King of kings within her space. The welcoming was the beginning. We cannot miss the importance of Martha welcoming Jesus in. She wanted to host Him. She wanted to serve Him. She wanted to be with Him. The welcoming is the beginning of the fullness of joy found in fellowship with Jesus.
However, the focus of the story quickly turns onto Mary’s actions. “And she had a sister called Mary who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.” Mary, Martha’s sister, was so enamored with Jesus Himself that she set aside every single thing she needed to do and she just sat with Him. The text tells us she did two things:
- She sat at Jesus’ feet.
- She listened to His teaching.
Sitting is the posture of learning. Not only was Mary found sitting, but she was sitting as close to Jesus as possible, right at His feet. Sitting is a sign of surrender, a posture of rest and it represents an attitude of willingness. Mary was ready and willing to learn from Jesus. Nothing else mattered in that moment but hearing His words. She listened intently to His voice. She gave Him her full attention. As I wrote that sentence just now I glanced over to my right and saw my phone sitting next to me, the culprit of my distracted heart.
The enemy has often used my phone to distract my attention from fully engaging with Jesus. Many times I find myself in the middle of spending time with Him and a “to-do” will pop into my head. My gut reaction is to grab my phone and jot it down, and usually I get sucked into the bottomless pit of checking social media, text messages, and other meaningless tasks, diverting my attention away from my Savior. More often that not, my phone tugs at my listening ear, causing me to have a divided attention span. Jesus is worthy of more. He is worthy of undistracted focus. He is worthy of my full attention. If I am not willing to give the Savior of this world my full attention, I will never walk in the fullness of joy.
TOO BUSY FOR JESUS
We find ourselves in the story with Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, earnestly listening to everything He has to say, gazing into His face as if nothing else in the world existed. At the same time, Martha was hurrying around, “distracted with much serving.” The Greek word of distracted means “to draw away, to be over-occupied, or too busy.” Ouch. Martha was too busy serving that her attention was drawn away from the One she was serving. The word for “serving” is an other word for ministry. Don’t miss this, friends! Martha was too busy doing ministry that she missed Jesus. She was over-occupied with all she needed to do to bless others that she didn’t bless the King of kings right in her midst. Even good things become stumbling blocks in this life when they are not done with a heart of worship out of deep love and devotion for Jesus.
This is where I’ve found myself lately. I love ministering to women. Writing Bible studies, teaching women the truth of God’s Word, and serving those around me lights my heart on fire. However, I’ve noticed that my personal walk with Jesus has suffered because I’ve had so much to do for others. I’ve rushed through my time with Jesus and have felt distant from Him lately. It’s not because Jesus has moved away from me; it is because I have moved away from Him all of the sake of getting things done and reaching more people. Don’t get me wrong when you read this! Ministry is my passion and it is likely yours, too. Ministry is good and right and honors the Lord. But ministry done out of our own strength, for our own validation, or for our own prideful ego is not God-honoring. It’s possible to look like you’re serving Jesus on the outside while on the inside you are far from Him.
Have you become so busy doing things for Jesus that you’ve forgotten to be with Him? Have you desired to teach the Word to others while not knowing and believing it yourself? Have you attempted to make disciples without first being a learner and listener, sitting at Jesus feet and giving Him your full attention? You aren’t alone. I believe that this brief encounter with Mary and Martha was divinely placed in Scripture because the Lord knew we would struggle with this. In His sovereign grace, He placed this example in the Word to give us hope, encouragement, and a better way to live.
JESUS CARES FOR YOUR DISTRACTED HEART
In Martha’s distracted busyness of ministering and getting things done, she felt unnoticed by Jesus. “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.” Do you not care? Martha asked.
Lord, do you not care that I’m using all my energy to serve You?
Lord, do you not notice all that I am doing for You?
Lord, are you not worried that everything won’t get done?
Martha questioned Jesus’ attention and affection. She questioned His love for her and His blessing of her. She placed her identity in the things she was doing for Jesus rather than who she was in Him.
I’ve committed to the Lord to be honest with you all, namely for the sake of pointing you to Him and not placing me or this ministry on a pedestal. It’s a daily choice not to place my identity in the things I do for Jesus. I’ve asked this same question Martha asked of Jesus, too. Lord, do you not see all that I am doing and how I am pouring out for You? Lord, do you not know the things I want to do? Why then am I so tired? Why then can I not get it all done? Why then do I feel empty at times? The emptiness our hearts feel when we are doing too much is a gracious gift from God reminding us it is time to slow down, sit, and listen to Him.
What questions have you asked of the Lord? Have you felt unnoticed by Him? Have you been pouring out to where you are a completely dried-up well? Do you come to Scripture longing for truth but feel as if there is a brick wall up between you and God? Remember, it’s not because Jesus has moved, it is because you have. But there is hope. Great and mighty hope for you and me who have found ourselves incessantly busy and uncomfortably empty.
“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.’”
Twice Jesus said here name. Two times to capture her attention. Two times to emphasize the truth He was able to speak. Two times to show her that He sees her, He loves her, and He is willing to teach her if only He could have her full attention.
“Gretchen, Gretchen”, I’ve heard Him calling out to me. I’ve pushed back from the calling to rest and be still because I don’t want to miss out on Him or let Him down. But Jesus isn’t concerned that we won’t get our to-do lists done, He wants our hearts. When He has our full hearts, He is able to do infinitely more than when we try to serve Him in our own strength and abilities. As Corrie ten Boom once said, “It is not my ability, but God’s ability that counts.”
Martha was “anxious and troubled” about many things. We weren’t created to do it “all”. We can’t, because we aren’t God. Yet we try so hard to be like Him. We push ourselves past exhaustion and whine when we have to go to bed because “if we didn’t have to sleep we could get more done”! We forget that sleep is a reminder that we are not God and He is. We add to our list of things that need to be done and the things we add aren’t eternal. We do all of this while missing out on Jesus Himself. Lord, forgive us for giving our hearts affections and minds devotion to things that do not matter eternally.
LIVING FOR ONE THING
What are the “many things” on your heart? What causes you anxiety and makes your spirit unsettled? What thoughts and worries keep you up at night? What is it you feel you cannot set aside to enjoy Jesus’ presence? There is just “one thing” that is necessary, Jesus says. There is only one thing that is essential to life. Just like we can’t survive without breathing and eating, we can’t survive spiritually without sitting at Jesus’ feet, giving Him our full attention, and being changed by His Word. The serving isn’t essential, the being is. We cannot serve in the power of the Holy Spirit without first being filled by Him. Mary chose long-term joy while Martha chose short-term satisfaction. It feels good to mark things off a to-do list. It feels satisfying to complete a project or task. But it doesn’t last. There will always be more that needs to be done. The things of this world are fleeting, but being with Jesus is forever.
Mary chose what was essential and best. Jesus knew this and He called Martha to a life of first being with Him rather than doing things for Him. The being is what brings power to the doing. Jesus wants our undivided hearts and attention. He can do more through us when we first do what is necessary and lay our lives down.
To my “Martha” friends who are weary, distracted, and overly busy: Jesus is not disappointed in you. He desires for you to choose what is best. He knows there is greater joy and fulfillment in this life and He is ready to give it to you…but you have to be willing to set aside your tasks. Don’t allow busyness to steal your joy. The kingdom of God is completely backwards. In being with Jesus, you will get more done for Him and with Him than you could ever do in your own strength. Don’t lose your wonder of the King. Sit down and give Him your undistracted attention. He is worthy of more than your leftovers and He notices you, cares for you, and loves you more than you will know this side of Heaven.
Choose what is best, by His grace. Now is the time for a fresh start. Now is the time to choose the good portion that lasts forever. It’s not too late. Your doing will lack power if it doesn’t begin with being. Be with Him today. He will not disappoint you.
sitting at His feet,