Many times when people come to the Lord they want to get out and spread the word. They have found something fantastic and want the world to know about it. They want to get involved in the ministry in many ways and often do get caught up in things like mission work, door to door evangelism, helping out at church functions, fundraising and the myriad other things that churches do.
But here we see in the story of Martha and Mary that while those things are useful, there is something that is more important.
Letting Works Get In The Way
Most Christians know that you cannot be saved through works alone. The New Testament is quite clear on that point. It is through faith in Jesus Christ that we are saved. I should also point out that when the bible writers speak of these things they are talking about works of the law. They are speaking of keeping the letter of the law to the most minor detail.
But charitable works and works of love or serving through helping others is different. When James spoke of having to have faith AND works it was in this context. (James 2:14-26) He was speaking of doing what is good and helping others, which essentially are works of love.
But this service can get in the way sometimes too. Many Christians are willing workers and their desire is to serve the Lord. But the Lord shows us that such service, while important and necessary, is not always the priority. In fact to work all of the time can be a problem for then the worker is not properly cared for and can become grumpy, hardened, jealous or angry as we see in the case of Martha and Mary
Listening to Jesus
The Lord came to the house of Martha and Mary and was teaching. Martha was distracted with serving the guests in her house, which would be typical for most people when they have guests come to their home. It is normal for the householder to be the best host or hostess they can so that their friends are served.
But in this case we see that Martha’s sister Mary was not helping Martha and instead was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to what he had to say. Needless to say Martha was annoyed and she complained to Jesus saying, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” (Verse 40)
But look at Jesus’ response. He said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Verse 41-42)
Jesus showed that Mary had chosen what is the better thing. And there is a great lesson here for us too.
Take the time to listen
Mary had chosen to sit and listen to the Lord. She was being fed food for the spirit and learning the things of the Kingdom of God. She was growing in her knowledge of the truth and gaining this from the Master himself.
When the Lord speaks or the opportunity arises to learn from the Lord as it did in the house of Martha and Mary that day, it is much better to sit and listen than to be distracted with serving.
If a person is constantly serving and not taking the time to listen to the Lord, how will they learn? And how can they grow? Serving the Lord is good to do, but it is important to learn the truth also. It is through learning the truth that we can learn better how to serve. It is through seeking the Lord and spending time at the feet of Jesus that we can learn the ways of salvation. After all, what is the good of all the service in the world if we do not achieve salvation ourselves?
Works of any kind are good, but they need to be balanced by listening to the Lord. We need to spend time with Jesus alone and let him teach us and guide us.
Even Jesus himself took time out to go and spend time with the Father. There were a number of occasions where he went alone into the wilderness to seek God and spend time with the Father rather than constantly working and serving.
We need to do the same. Sure there is a time to be “Martha” but there are times when it is much more important to be “Mary” and to just sit and listen to the Lord. Besides, you cannot properly take in what the Lord is saying to you and appreciate the fullness of his teachings when you are running around and distracted by too much serving. It is necessary to chill out and listen so you can learn and grow.