All of us are in the process of becoming someone. You are not who you used to be and you are not who you will be. Each day your choices help determine the kind of person you become. All of us are becoming. The question is: what are we becoming or rather “who” are we becoming? Are we becoming a mean old drunk, a loving mother, a passionate follower of Christ?
These small choices are the sum of our lives. But not all of our choices lead us to places that we want to be. For years I consistently made the choice that high fat, high calorie foods were worth the risk/reward and that I didn’t really have time to exercise. The result was that I became large in an unhealthy way. I intended to be healthy, but I never actually made the decisions that it takes to be healthy along the way.
The sad thing is that most of us we aren’t intentional about what we become. I didn’t intend to get fat. I fully intended to get into great shape, tone down my 6 pack abs and be able to rip the sleeves of my shirt by just flexing… but I didn’t, I didn’t become that guy because intention wasn’t enough. Perry Noble says it this way in his book “Overwhelmed” that whatever gets your attention controls your direction.[i] For years high fat food had my attention and exercise didn’t and it took my body in an unhealthy direction. I’m a product of choice. Now I’m making some healthier ones. I’m hitting the gym on a regular basis (and I found out that the gym hits back the next day) and working things like fruit and fish into my diet while trying to curb my enthusiasm for things like Ice cream and quarter-pounders.
Today we are going to look at the choices that two sisters made. They both had an encounter with Jesus. Jesus came over to their house and they had a choice about how they would spend their time with Him. One sister was filled with anxiety and was troubled, the other peaceful and content. It’s revealed by Jesus that one had chosen better. My prayer and aim in bringing this message to you is that we will find out for ourselves what the better option was in this passage and we find the key to help us choose the better in our own lives. So that it would be said of us as well that we, “Chose the better.”
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 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.” (Luke 10:38-42 ESV)
So Jesus comes over to Martha’s house to hang out. Martha is freaking out and making sure everyone is comfortable. I can imagine that she’s a checklist kind of person and having Jesus might have just added about eighty million things to her checklist. So she’s going through them as fast as she can and she notices Mary sitting over there at the feet of Jesus… listening, hanging on every word and she gets upset about it and so she goes to Jesus.
But Jesus doesn’t validate Martha, instead he reminds her about what is essential. Serving is good, but there comes a time where sitting at the feet of Jesus is better. What is scary to me though is that our lives are full of choices between good and better things. The defining moments in who you become won’t always be choices between right and wrong they will be choices between what’s good and what’s best.
No one sets out for mediocre. No one sets out for tired and boring. No one sets out to ruin a marriage or lose contact with their kids. No one hopes to pile on enough debt to go bankrupt. No one hopes to have a panic attack. No one sets out to sink the ship. But somehow we get there. We get there through choices big and small.
It will be a choice about how you spend your Sundays. It will be the choices you make about how to spend your money. It will be the choices you make about how you spend your free time. It will be the choices you make between things that are not bad, but are actually good.
The two sisters here both make a choice about Jesus. One sister chooses to listen to Jesus, while the other sister chooses to serve Jesus. Neither choice is a bad choice. They both seem good. But we are told that once choice is better than the other or as some versions translate it, “Chosen the good portion.”
If you had to pick who was doing something wrong here you might pick Mary, especially if you looked through the eyes of Martha. Mary looks lazy while Martha is busy working. Who would condemn Martha for working hard and serving others? She isn’t breaking a law. She’s not committing murder or adultery, she’s not neglecting her children, she is actually being very vigilant. She’s making sure that everything and everyone is taken care of. She is pouring herself out… She is serving.
Serving isn’t a dirty word. Jesus calls us to serve one another. Just before this account in Luke, we are told the story of the Good Samaritan. The whole point of the story was to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer… anyone you see in front of you who has a need that you can meet. You certainly can’t meet needs without serving. Indeed, a few weeks ago we had some major flooding around town and several folks lost everything. Many of you showed up to move furniture, rip out carpet, provide meals and the dozens of other things that needed to be done for our friends and neighbors in need. You took days off work to help and to serve.
Jesus modeled servant leadership in John 13 when he washed the disciples feet. He said a servant isn’t greater than his master and just as he served them, so they should serve one another. Serving is a great thing, so service isn’t the root problem in this passage. The root problem in this passage is that Martha was “distracted” with much serving.
You see a good thing “serving” became a bad thing “distracting” when it became the main thing. Her focus shifted from Jesus to the job. I think this passage is located after the story of the Good Samaritan to help us realize that while it is good to serve others, even our service must be done in such a way that it makes much of Jesus.
Distraction causes you to despise the things of ultimate value in your life.
It’s not like what Martha was doing was bad, she was just distracted. The funny thing about distractions though is that they cause you to look at the things of real value as distractions.
I have to confess I’m not great at this. I’m the guy who looks at his phone and his kids come up to show me something and I’m like… “that’s great but let me look at this” (holds up cell phone). And all the sudden my kids, who are not a distraction, become the distraction instead of the point.
Martha has done this with Jesus. She is so distracted with serving that she interrupts the Master. She interjects herself into the situation and says, “Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” (Luke 10:40). She sees Jesus as a distraction to Mary from what Mary should have been doing! She’s so distracted (and worried) by all her serving that she doesn’t realize that she just called Jesus a distraction!
What has happened to us when Jesus becomes a distraction? We are One of my long time mentors and friends Bro. Ed Lacy is just now getting into facebook. It’s really an interesting thing to witness because He is always so encouraging and Christ focused in person. He’s been posting some great stuff on facebook now as well. He wrote this the other night on facebook.
You will be fiercely opposed and continually hindered in the supreme priority of your personal prayer life, by the sworn enemy of your soul. He will bring many important things to your mind, that you are responsible to accomplish on this particular day. The deceiver will tempt you to do any other thing, instead of the “main thing” of a daily, priority and consistent time in the true intimacy of intercession. They may be good things; needful things; even christian things! The “father of lies” will attempt to entice you to do any other thing, but the preeminent priority of interceding about all other things. How should you respond to his wicked strategies? You should submit yourself to God; place your heart and mind under His absolute authority; and resist the temptations of the enemy to be negligent or to be detoured from this essential issue of prayer![ii]
Write this down. If you don’t get anything else from today’s message make sure you hear this. Put it on your bathroom mirror. If you drive, place it on the dash of your car somewhere. (Make sure it doesn’t cover the gas gauge or speedometer!) Put it on your x-box, your alarm clock, the fridge, your wallet, wherever you need this reminder. Are you ready for it? Ok here it is… Choose The Better
What that means is this. Every time you see that phrase in your handwriting, be reminded that Jesus said of Mary that she chose the better because she chose to be focused on HIM and ask yourself… Am I Choosing the better (JESUS) or am I choosing something that will ultimately lead me down a path that I don’t want to go down?
Look at Martha. She saw Jesus as a house guest and was trying to be a very good hostess, but this produced a lot of anxiety for her. She was running to and fro trying to get things done. Worry about stuff that she had no control over. The result was that she was filled with anxiety. I bet when Jesus first came into her house she wasn’t filled with anxiety. She was probably thrilled. But slowly her focus shifted from Jesus to all the stuff that needed to be done and in doing so she filled her heart with anxiety. She wasn’t aiming for it… but she ended up there!
I remember I went to go pick up my mom form the New Orleans Airport one time in college. On the way back I missed the interstate interchange and ended up headed into North Mississippi. My intention was not to take the long way home. But my direction took us there.
So all this talk about the better and I guess we should probably define “Better” in this passage. I think it’s obvious that Mary was at the feet of Jesus. But what does that mean? Mary set everything aside to hear what the Lord had to say, where as Martha laid aside what the Lord was saying to do something for Him.
I think Jesus Said it best this way:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 ESV)
Some of us have gotten off the path. We’ve gotten focused on ourselves instead of Jesus. We’ve thought about pleasing others instead of him. We talk about family.
We’ve lost our first love. We need to repent and come back.
When we missed our turn it didn’t matter what we had intended to do. You might intend to fully explore the tenants of Christianity or you might intend to have a close relationship with God. You might intend to go on a mission trip one day. You might intend to share Christ with your neighbors… but intentions alone don’t get you there. You have to actually head in the right direction.
Jesus tells Martha that Mary was headed in the right direction and what she has done (sitting at the feet of Jesus) that will never be taken away from her. Mary’s memory and Martha’s memory of this same event will be different. Mary will remember when Jesus came over and what HE SAID AND DID, Martha will remember when Jesus came over and what SHE SAID AND DID. Mary will remember the peace of being at the Master’s feet. Martha will remember the anxiety of trying to get it all done.
I need tape #ChooseTheBetter on my phone so when my kids come up and ask me about something I won’t be that dad.
I need to put it on my TV. So when we’re watching something and it get’s close to bed time we still carve out enough time to read from the Jesus story book bible.
I need to put it right by the portion size on the icecream lable. I need to put it on my gym shoes and on my bible. I need it in a million small places every day to remind me that Jesus is Lord and that these small decisions matter and they determine the kind of person I am and the kind of person I am becoming.
Where do you need to #chooseTheBetter ?
[i] Perry Noble, Overwhelmed. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2014), 5.
[ii] Ed Lacy, Facebook Status Update 10:10PM on May 5, 2014.