Does your “to do” list ever bother you? Do you leap out of bed in the morning excited to start making your way through it? Or does it feel more like a weight that you wake up to every day? Whether or not you have a written list, is your mind filled with anxiety as you contemplate all you have to do?
If the latter is true for you, then I think you will be able to identify with Martha. She lived with her brother and her sister Mary; they were friends of Jesus, and He was often in their home.
I have heard this story many times and when I was younger I often wondered which of the two sisters I was more like. I really wasn’t a Mary – definitely not spiritual enough for that – I was not the kind of girl who conscientiously read her Bible every day. Yet I also didn’t feel worthy to be a Martha.
Martha sounds like one of those terribly efficient people. She got things done. She kept a spotless house and baked and cooked and gardened – at least this is what I imagined.
More recently, though, I am coming to realise that I am more like Martha than I thought. No, I am still not terribly efficient; I am working on being more productive and on top of things. However, a little phrase stood out to me in the story and made me stop and think.
“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’” (Luke 10:38-42).
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.”
Well, that feels familiar. Very familiar.
Trying to keep all the balls in the air. Remembering everyone’s schedule. Making sure dishes, clothes and people are cleaned on a regular basis. Not to mention homework, my own work, church meetings, friends and other family members to keep up with.
My “to do” list can silently scream at me all day. My mind is not at peace. It’s frenzied, overwhelmed, anxious.
The Lord responds so lovingly 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.”
Martha may have felt like replying, “I know Mary has chosen the good part! It would be wonderful to sit and listen to You, but there are so many things that need to be done.”
And we modern day “Marthas” will say, “I don’t have time to read my Bible today, I must rush on. There is so much to do.”
But the same answer comes to us.
“One thing is needed. Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her”.
The Lord Jesus spoke these words. But do we believe Him?
There are so many things we need to do in a day. How do we decide what is a priority? If we are Christians, then we should be getting our priorities from God’s Word.
Our first priority is our relationship with God and with Christ:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
If we are wives and mothers, our next priority is to our family and, depending on circumstances, possibly also to our extended family:
“They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children” (Titus 2:3-4 ESV).
Then, whatever our marital status, we have our local church of Christians that we are to meet with regularly, and individual Christians who may need to be encouraged in their faith. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
We may also have other responsibilities, such as to employers or activities we’ve committed to in our local community.
Within this framework we can start to order our life, but every day we will be faced with choices. Things come up, and often our “to do” list is left by the wayside as we react to whatever is happening right now, however unimportant it might be. Or, on the other hand, we may be so focused on the “to do” list that we miss the child who needs a bit of extra attention or the friend who needs an encouraging word.
How do we have wisdom for each day? We think we have so much to do each day, but how much of that is following our own pre-conceived plans, rather than being sensitive to God’s leading.
Martha was troubled and worried over many things, but Jesus told her, “One thing is needed”. Do we add things to our “to do” list that are of our own making due to pride, a desire to look good before others, or wanting to maintain our own personal standards of perfection? What if, instead, we focused on seeking to learn what God wants us to be doing in our life?
The Lord Jesus showed us what it was to seek God’s face each day. He was often found alone, speaking to His Father. Mark chapter 1 verses 35-38 records an interesting story that was recently brought to my attention. The Lord Jesus had risen very early in the morning and gone out to a solitary place to pray. Simon and others came to find Him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for You”. But Jesus said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth”.
The Lord Jesus didn’t react to the crowds that wanted Him. He looked to His Father to find His purpose and followed that path. He wasn’t a people pleaser, nor was He ever frantic or hurried.
Are we focused on finding what God wants of us each day? Or are we worried and troubled by all the things that we think other people are expecting of us or even that we are expecting of ourselves?
Will we have the courage to do the one thing that is needed?
Mary chose the better part. To sit at His feet and to learn of Him. This is the most important thing we can do: spend time with the Bible each day, reading, thinking about and talking to the Lord. This way we will gain clarity to know what God values in our life and where we should be putting our efforts each day. We may even find ourselves adjusting that “to do” list!