Any given day, I’m concerned about a lot of things.
Most of those things are trivial, as those of you who follow me on Twitter can attest to. (I’m just trying to expose you to quality music, entertain you with funny things my kids say, and wow you with heart-shaped pizza – if these things aren’t worthy of your time and attention, I mean, honestly, I don’t know what is…)
A handful of the things I’m concerned about are weightier in importance, like health and happiness of my family, for instance.
This all seems very normal and understandable.
Until I read a conversation between Jesus and Martha.
I typically read the NIV (1984) Bible. But this year I am reading through the NLT, so some of the phrasing is
In Luke 10 we read that after she welcomed Jesus into her home, Martha went to work making sure Jesus’ visit was enjoyable. She flitted around the kitchen making a “big dinner”, concerning herself with treating her guest well. Martha knew Jesus was God, which is evident when she addressed Him as Lord (Luke 10:40). I’m sure she felt just a little bit stressed cooking for GOD. She wanted everything to be top-notch.
Meanwhile, Martha’s sister, Mary, “sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He taught,” (Luke 10:39).
I can imagine, as the minutes turned into hours, Martha grew irate over her sister’s lack of help preparing the meal. I can picture Martha stewing internally as she stirred food, chopped vegetables, and stressed over the perfection of it all alone, while Mary kicked back with Jesus.
Martha’s emotions finally escalated to a point she felt she had to voice them or she’d burst. “‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me,'” (Luke 10:40).
Martha complained to (and possibly against) God. Then she asked Jesus to choose sides. She also told Him to use His authority as a man, as a rabbi, and as God to correct her sister.
Clearly, Martha should have kept her mouth shut.
Nevertheless, she asked Jesus a question, and He answered it, just not how she would have liked Him to.
“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her,” (Luke 10:41-42).
Apparently, Jesus would have been satisfied with some cold leftovers. Good to know if I ever find myself having to cook for Him in Heaven.
What struck me even more, though, is the middle sentence, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about.” Really? Just one? Cause I can think of at least 10 right now.
The statement begs the question, “Well, what is it?! What’s the one thing? Tell me so I can concern myself with it.” Jesus doesn’t define it out rightly, but He gives us clues about “it”.
- Mary has discovered it.
- It will not be taken away from her.
If we go back up in the text, we can figure out what Jesus is talking about.
The only thing Mary did in this story was sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to what He taught (Luke 10:39). What is she concerning herself with? The things Jesus was teaching. And when she learned those teachings, they could never be taken away from her. They’d be in her memory forever.
To be clear, I don’t think Jesus considers it “bad” that we concern ourselves with things like our families’ safety and Instagram pizza. Those things have their places, and we certainly can’t all be monks and nuns who spend their whole days studying Scripture. But the lesser things should receive lesser attention than the greater things, and Jesus is the greatest thing.
Further, in addition to focused Bible reading and prayer, I think Jesus is inviting us to concern ourselves with Him and what He’s saying throughout the day by keeping our spiritual ears open to what the Holy Spirit may be saying to us at any given moment.
If Martha had been listening to Jesus teach while she prepared the meal, I don’t think she would have been focused on the food or the labor. Her heart wouldn’t have gotten angry at her lazy sister. Instead, she probably would’ve been energized and encouraged by what Jesus was saying and cooked all the more joyfully.
And we can do that too. No matter what task we are completing or what concern we have at the moment, He ought to be our heart’s focus in the midst of those things, transforming them into opportunities for closeness with Him.