Good or Better?

What with camps and holidays, it’s been a while since I posted on here, but now that the start of term is only a few weeks away I thought I’d try and out down some thoughts.

Well the new term isn’t far away and with it will come a phenomenal amount of things to do as well as many hectic and busy days. When I think about it, I can’t honestly say that I’m filled with joy at the prospect. But I feel that the passage I read for my quiet time today speaks into this situation. The passage was Luke 10:38-42. You’re probably familiar with it.

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

   41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

There is no bad guy in this story. Martha is a good woman and her actions are not bad actions. There isn’t a choice between good and bad here, but rather between good and better. Martha’s intention is to serve Jesus and she shows this by her actions. But yet she is distracted by her preparations to such an extent that her focus ceases to be on Jesus. They actually distract her from the very person she was trying to serve. This makes her irritable and grumpy and she even tells Jesus what he should say to Mary: “Tell her to help me!” She just needs someone to share the burden with. But Jesus’ response indicates that this isn’t the real issue. Martha made a choice to become distracted by her preparations rather than to sit at Jesus’ feet. Mary made the right call, Martha made the wrong one.

This got me thinking about this new term. Things will be busy and it’s easy to slip into an attitude that if we’re busy then we must be doing something right, especially if you work for a church. “I’m busy with the Lord’s work,” we say to ourselves. But whilst we busy ourselves with preparations for Sunday services or the next youth group, it’s easy to omit making time to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to what he has to say to us. And when we do that, it’s a choice. We often don’t realise we’ve made a choice. We think we’re doing the right thing because we’re serving Jesus. But in our desire to serve Jesus, we can let our serving become a distraction, so that our focus is not actually on Jesus at all. I guess this means that sometimes (most of the time?) we have to actively make a choice to sit at Jesus’ fit and put our preparations aside, even though that can feel counter-productive.

This applies to more than just church workers though. It’s just as relevant to anyone who serves in church in some way. How easy it is for us to immerse ourselves in serving at church whilst neglecting to spend any real time with Jesus. We sing in the music group, we do a reading, lead the prayers, move the chairs or serve tea or coffee. All good things but they’re not a substitute for sitting at Jesus’ feet.

And we’re just as guilty of this outside of a church context. It’s easy to justify our busyness. “I need to revise for my exams. God want me to honour him in this so I haven’t really got time to read my Bible at the moment but it’ll still be there after my exams.” “Work is really hectic right now so I’ve got to put in the extra hours. It means missing church for a bit & I won’t make home group but I’ve gotta honour God at work too.” OK, so those are extreme examples, cliched up to the hilt but they still make a point. Of course God wants you to honour him by working for your exams and of course he wants you to honour him at work, but not at the expense of spending time with Jesus. That just misses the point.

In honesty though, I’m being a bit easy on us here. I’m making out that most of the things that distract us from sitting at the feet of Jesus are things we do with good intentions, intended to honour God. In reality, most of our distractions are not like Martha’s, they’re more like this:

I have actually had someone tell me they’ve had a busy week because they got a new computer game that took up all of their time. That’s not being busy. That’s being at at a huge loose end and just doing what you want to do. And if we’re honest, more often than not, it’s stuff like this that distracts us from sitting at Jesus’ feet.

But regardless of whether or not our distractions have good intentions behind them, they’re still distractions and distractions that we often choose to continue in. In a world that constantly tell us that busyness is good, we need to be more like Mary, stepping away from those distractions and making time to sit at Jesus’ feet.

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