Sitting and Serving

For about the past three weeks I have been wrestling with a particular text in Luke’s gospel. In verses 38-42 of chapter 10, Luke tells a story with three main characters: Mary, Martha, and Jesus. Mary and Martha were sisters and the hostesses of a party. Jesus was the invited guest. Martha had a gift of service, and she put it to work. Mary didn’t have that gift. She just hung out at Jesus’ feet. Martha was distracted, and Mary was focused. Martha complained to Jesus; she needed and wanted Mary’s help. But Jesus didn’t respond the way she wanted him to. She wanted him to tell Mary to get up and help her. But, Jesus said, “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” (verse 41-42). I can imagine Martha saying, with jaw dropped, “What? I’m trying to serve you. Is that wrong?”

Did Jesus say that she was wrong by trying to serve him? No. What he meant was that she went far beyond the call on her life to serve him. That led her to a point of sinful, prideful preoccupation with her service. Doug Milne wrote, “Jesus’ reply to her…indicates that she was not wrong to take trouble for Jesus. Her mistake was in going beyond what was necessary in the circumstances when only one thing (a meal) was necessary. Her response  was not measured by the wishes or needs of her guest so much as by her own desire to host something grand. Martha ought to have been more taken up with Jesus and less with herself.” Martha let the task overtake the task-giver. She had put her own activity of serving Jesus over and above her own relationship with Jesus. That was her mistake. And, that is my great struggle as well. Often times I think we have a tendency to think about what we can DO for Christ is as important, if not more important, than how we ENJOY Christ. That is a fatal mistake. In fact, it is idolatry. When we do this, our joy and satisfaction is found in what WE have done, rather than in who HE is and what HE has done. Mary, however, got it right. She perceived that there is one thing of most importance: personal communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. And she chose it. That should not and would not be taken from her.

There are many activities in which we can involve ourselves in service to Christ, but one thing is of utmost importance — communion with Christ. Mary shows us that whatever work we do for Christ our primary need is for time spent with him and hearing his word. Daily communion with Christ is essential. Our work for Christ is only resourced by our continual drinking from the fountain of living water. May the Lord burden us with the desire to sit at his feet and to serve him in his great Spirit.

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