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Choosing the Better Part

By Watchman | May 5, 2009

    “Now it happened as they went that He (Jesus) 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.’ “

     My dear brothers-and-sisters-in-Christ, I am ashamed to have to admit  that until recently this story always seemed somewhat unfair to me.   After all, Martha was working hard for Jesus and knew everyone needed to be fed.  I know, I know!  It is impossible for God to ever be unfair, so obviously it was my interpretation of it that was at fault–as well as my lack of a “Mary” heart!

     We know from the account of Jesus’ raising the women’s brother, Lazarus, from the dead in the eleventh chapter of John that Jesus was very close to this family, so obviously He had spent a lot of time in their home.  He would go to this house, and possibly all the neighbors would be invited in to listen to Jesus speak, and would share a meal in His presence.  I’m sure that Martha knew that Jesus would receive a meal of yesterday’s bread and a bowl of stewed figs with a smile and sincere thanks, but I’m also certain she knew that as soon as they were out of earshot, Lazarus’ friends would all be looking at each other, shaking their heads and saying, “That Martha sure sets a poor table!”   And it was of these snide comments she was thinking as she worked, rather than the wonderful presence of her Lord!

     I can understand how she felt as she toiled over a hot fire trying to prepare everybody’s meal while her sister sat at the feet of Jesus (where Martha, too, longed to be) drinking in all His words about the kingdom of God and the life eternal He brought to those who would believe in Him.  She watched others take their places near Jesus as she stayed in the outer circle of the room working instead of enjoying His nearness.  Yes, I can understand her anger and her seemingly harsh words.  I might have done exactly the same thing–and been just as mistaken.  How differently this story might have ended had Martha taken her place among her family and friends!  Had she listened with an open heart and undivided attention to the words Jesus spoke that day, would some of the others have generously offered to help her put together an impromptu meal at the end of the day?  Would anyone actually have cared or noticed if the food wasn’t on the table directly at suppertime?  Probably not, but Martha was so caught up in the everyday worries and concerns of the world that she could not see to choose the “better part.”  Of course Jesus approves of people who have a heart for hospitality–but there are times when just resting at Jesus’ feet is more important than service.  No, Jesus wasn’t being unfair.  He knew how often people skip the most important gifts God gives because they are too busy striving for accolades, for affection or even to do what they conceive to be their duty.

     God created rest as a gift.  He knew that mental and spiritual health could be found in quiet, in good habits of sleep, in harmless recreational activities.  We were not just created to work, but to enjoy.  To see God as merely a harsh taskmaster is to deny the reality of the mercy and love He has shown us through His gift of rest.   

     God has granted us His word in Scripture so that we might spend some time getting to know Him intimately and learning both His commandments and His great love.  Yet how many times do we promise ourselves that we will read more of the Bible, but we just cannot find the time to do so?  We guitily tell ourselves that we need to spend more time in prayer; in seeking the presence of Almighty God, but we are just too busy with school or work or family or projects or church….

     Work is important and healthy for us.  Family, friends, church and school are all integral parts of our lives.  But we need to remember to choose first the “needed thing.”  We must remember to indulge first in that “better part” which “shall not be taken away”–time with Jesus.  Dinner will wait; the ironing will still be there when you get to it; if you miss making it to the mall today you can always go tomorrow–but time missed with the Lord is sorely felt.  Beloved ones, Jesus loves you and wants you to spend time with Him.  He is always waiting and willing to sit by your side, take your hand and explain to you in your heart the kind of love no words on the tongue could express.  He wants to lead and guide your days, be a leader of your family and take part in your decisions.  Sometimes we are so busy trying to work for Him that we pay little attention to those things that bring pleasure to Him.  He desires obedience above sacrifice.

     Afraid of what the neighbors or your family will say?  Probably!   We are presently in a fight for the souls and spirits of this nation and the world.  The people of God are being publically mocked and ridiculed, and families are being set at odds over the decision to live lives pleasing to God and walking in the ways of righteousness.   Fear not, O flock of Christ!  No matter how foolish we are believed by others to be because we accept the finished work of Christ on the cross for our salvation, we have chosen the better way!  We have now chosen to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn of the one, true Lord and Master of all!  We have chosen the better part!



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