Day 7, Chapter 7: The Decision
Now as they were traveling along, [Jesus] entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 NASB)
This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture - and one of my least favorites. While it confirms the affections of my heart, it also convicts the decisions of my mind. I’m a Mary at heart, loving my quiet times and the moments when I find myself reveling in the Lord’s presence. At other times, however, life forces me into Martha mode and I find myself trapped in the maze of a merciless schedule with seemingly no way out. Life is a constant balancing act, and too often the scales tip the wrong way. The most important thing - God, family, and good health - are sometimes outweighed by the proverbial tyranny of the urgent. If we are not careful, the American Dream can become a nightmare. I’m sure those who live in other nations face similar challenges.
This passage concerning Mary and Martha is loaded with helpful insights to aid us in overcoming this tendency. To find the nuggets, we must dig below the surface and do a few word studies, but I assure you, treasure buried there is well worth the effort. Let’s begin with two Greek words used in the simple statement, “Mary...was listening to the Lord’s word.” “Listening” is akouo, and has a broad range of meanings, depending on its context. It can mean simply “to hear,” but at times it carries the stronger meaning “to understand, hear with the ear of the mind; to hear effectively so as to perform what is spoken.”
“Word” is logos - Mary was listening to His logos. This is not the normal Greek term for spoken words (that is rhema). Logos, which does include spoken words, has the added meaning of “connecting” or “linking” words in order to communicate thoughts and messages. Logos, therefore, embodies the logic that words are communicating - the meaning, message, or content. It’s easy to see the connection to our English word “logic,” which is indeed derived from logos.
Mary was sitting quietly, listening intently to what Jesus was saying, and therefore was hearing more than mere words. She understood the message they were conveying. She was making the connection. Jesus’ words were penetrating her heart and mind, bringing knowledge, creating paradigms, and shaping beliefs.
The name of Lego construction blocks kids play with are also a derivative of logos, and they present a great picture of what was occurring in Mary. Lego blocks connect in order to build structures - buildings, bridges, etc. - just as words do in order to build thoughts. The Lord’s words were “connecting” in Mary, building a foundation for her life creating a grid for her paradigms and beliefs.
Martha, on the other hand, was busy working. She was so busy, in fact, that the Lord said she was “distracted” (perispao). The literal meaning of the Greek word used is much stronger than simply being distracted. In fact, the picture it communicates is brutal: “to drag around in circles.”
Ouch! Busyness can indeed be a real drag.
Okay, that was bad. But the point is important. Martha was more than just distracted. Her tendency toward busyness had gotten her life out of balance. While Mary was enjoying the pleasure of His company Martha was experiencing the pressure of His company. It’s one thing to experience the frustration of being unproductive; it’s another thing to compound the lack of productivity with weariness by dragging around unnecessary weights. Ecclesiastes, the book of Scripture in which Solomon delineated his frustration with life, tells us, “God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated” (Ecclesiastes 7:29 GNT).
I’ve always felt the latter part of this verse is true of women. I’ve been told a time or two that the first part of it is true of us men. Actually, the entire verse is true with all of us. We allow life to get out of control and far too complex. We must de-complicate things. Paul said to the church at Corinth, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
While Mary was enjoying the simple pleasure of His company, Martha was allowing it to further complicate her life. Be like Mary - do some simplifying at His feet!
There is an interesting word in the passage that adds tremendous insight to the Lord’s gentle but revealing correction to Martha. Jesus told her she was distracted with all her “preparations.” The word used here (diakonia) is also the Greek word for “ministry.” In the Scriptures, there is no distinction made between serving or ministering to someone in a general sense, or doing so in what we’ve come to call “the ministry.” As far as God is concerned, whether we’re serving a family member, a friend, or a congregation, we’re all ministers. Tell your friends to start calling you reverend!
The words used by Holy Spirit in this passage were chosen carefully in order to convey a critical understanding: No matter how important or noble our activities may be, including working for Him, they don’t trump time with Him. Nothing we could possibly do in life is more important than keeping Christ as our first priority. His words provide us with equilibrium - they keep our lives balanced. Like Legos, they form the beliefs, understanding and wisdom we can use to build our lives. They provide structure and strength.
If our foundations are not laid with the strengths and wisdom found in His words, they will crack under pressure. The Lord used this analogy with Joshua as he was about to take over Moses’ leadership role (see Joshua 1:1-9). What a daunting task! Yahweh told Joshua to carefully listen to His words and remember them, reminding Israel’s new leader that they would bring him success and prosperity.
The Lord then gave him an interesting command: “Do not tremble or be dismayed” (v. 9). “Dismayed” is translated from the Hebrew word chathath, meaning “to break.” Hebrew scholar Spiros Zodhiates says, “The meaning ranges from a literal breaking to abstract destruction, to demoralization, and finally to panic.” He likens it to the concept we use nowadays of “cracking under stress.”1 God was telling Joshua to “chill out,” to not let the stress get to him.
The Lord knew Joshua’s assignment would be difficult. Possessing the land would be more demanding than camping in the wilderness. The latter involved the stress of day-to-day life; the former would add to this the struggle of war. The pressures on Joshua would have been extreme. How was he to keep from cracking under the stress? What would maintain freshness and joy? The solution would be listening to (akouo) and building with the words (logos) of God. For you and me it will be the same.
No matter how hectic your life has become, slow down for a few minutes each day and listen to Him. Get off the treadmill of life and spend some quality time enjoying the pleasure of His company. Let nothing stop you. With childlike simplicity, hang out with God.
Young Tommy had been an unexpected “bonus child” to his parents, and he continued to surprise and delight his family with his spontaneous expressions of love. Shortly after he turned five, Tommy asked his mother, “How old were you when I was born?” Upon learning she had been thirty-six, he exclaimed, “What a shame!” A little puzzled, his mother asked him what he meant. Tommy’s reply: “Just think of all those years we didn’t know each other.”2
Take a lesson from Tommy. Don’t allow another day - let alone another year - go by without getting to know Him intimately.
Pray with me:
Father, we repent for letting the busyness of life keep us from the most important thing - time spent in devotion to You - Christ, in purity and simplicity. Jesus, we don’t want to be casual listeners; we want to sit at Your feet and listen as You speak. Be it a loud trumpet call or a gentle whisper, we want to follow every leading of Your heart.
Father, we ask for wisdom and revelation, that we may truly come to know You. Holy Spirit, help us to apply our hearts to understand the messages Abba conveys, such that they’ll penetrate and transform every part of us. Let our lives be founded upon the wisdom of Your Word.
Jesus, we choose to slow down today and invite You in for a time to connect. Heart to Heart. Once again, let us enjoy the pleasure of Your company.
We declare that we will sit and listen to Christ, Abba, and Holy Spirit.
Today’s post was taken from my book The Pleasure of His Company.
Dutch Sheets, The Pleasure of His Company (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2014), pp 57-63.
Spiros Zodhiates, Hebrew-Greek key Word Study Bible: New American Standard (Chattanooga, TN: AMG, 1990), 1729.
Adapted from Alice Collins, “All Those Years,” in Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul, ed. Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jennifer Read Hawthorne, and Marci Shimoff (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 1997), p 20.