Bible Reading: Luke 10
Luke 10:41-42, “But the Lord answered her, ‘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.’”
In 1967 a man by the name of Charles Hummel published a much-distributed little booklet entitled the Tyranny of the Urgent (you can find a PDF version by doing a Google search). The following excerpt speaks to the dilemma we all face–there is a tendency in our busy lives (even more so now than in 1967) for urgent things to crowd out the more important things.
A man’s home is no longer his castle; it is no longer a place away from urgent tasks because the telephone breaches walls with imperious demands. The momentary appeal of these tasks seems irresistible and important, and they our energy. But in the light of time’s perspective their deceptive prominence fades; with a sense of loss we recall the important task pushed aside. We realize we’ve become slaves to the tyranny of the urgent.Charles Hummel
Tyrannized by urgent matters, Martha was missing out on something more important. Martha had welcomed Jesus to her home. He was to be their honored guest. There were many things to be done in preparing the home for Him. One can imagine Martha busily sweeping, cleaning, and setting things in order. Dinner needed to be planned and prepared. These things all took time and Martha was busy-as-a-bee, seeing to them.
While Martha was busy doing, Mary was quietly listening. She was seated “as the Lord’s feet and listening to his teaching” (Luke 10:39). “But Martha was distracted with much serving” (Luke 10:40). How easy it is to get distracted by the tyranny of the urgent in our lives! A divine appointment to hear the Master speak was availed to both Martha and Mary, but Martha was distracted by matters of lesser importance.
Martha asked Jesus to intervene, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (Luke 10:40). Isn’t that often the way things work amongst siblings? Lord, don’t you care? Tell her to do her job! It’s not fair for me to do all the work! The passage indicates that Martha was “distracted,” “anxious,” and “troubled.” She had many things on her mind. Much to do, much to do! And like a juggler with too many plates in the air, she was frustrated by her inability to keep track of them all. Vance Havner once said, “Jesus knows we must come apart and rest awhile or else we may just plain come apart!” Martha was in the “coming apart because she had failed to come apart” mode.
But Jesus didn’t tell Mary to help Martha, instead He helped Martha to reassess her priorities, saying, “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” (Luke 10:41-42). D. L. Moody once said that the “main thing in life is keeping the main thing the main thing.” To love and know Jesus is the main thing (Philippians 3:13; 2 Peter 3:18). The main thing is keeping it the main thing because countless other things are constantly working to distract us.
Life is filled with choices, and we make choices according to what we deem important. Tragically, in the business of our lives it is very possible for us to lose track of what matters most. Good things, even relatively important things (like making a home presentable for an invited guest) can work to keep us from something that is of infinitely more value.
Jesus would speak to my heart though His Word today. Do I have any time for him? Has the business of my life clouded my vision? The “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3) is a precious thing, but do I esteem it so? Do I have time and heart to sit at Jesus’ feet that I might hear what He has to say to me? He deliberately “chose the bad part,” stepping out of Heaven to love me by dying for my sins (John 1:14; Galatians 2:20), do I “choose the good” that through the ministry of His Word I might better appreciate the full measure of His love (Ephesians 3:14-19).
I’m prone to wander, but the Good Shepherd cares for me and knows all about my needs—do I have ears to hear what He has to say to me this day (John 10:27-28; Hebrews 4:12-13)? His Word is able to guide me along His path of righteousness—teaching, reproving, correcting, and training me—but it cannot achieve its profitable intent if I take no time to sit at His feet and listen (2 Timothy 3:16-17). He is a Glorious Savior—the day will come when “He will be marveled at among all who believe” (2 Thessalonians 1:10)—do I yearn to behold His glory even now as the Spirit works through the Word to help me to see (John 16:14)?
Lord, we are such a busy and distracted people, help us this day to choose the good part. Help us that what truly matters most might be what matters most to us in the daily practice of our lives. Help us to be glad to sit at Your feet and listen!
Break now the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
as once you broke the loaves beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page I seek you, Lord;
my spirit waits for you, O living Word.
O send your Spirit now, dear Lord, to me,
that he may touch my eyes and make me see.
Show me the truth made plain within your Word,
for in your book revealed I see you, Lord.