Day 9, Chapter 9: The Choice
“I’m gonna blow your doors off!”
My frustration could no longer be contained on this particular morning’s commute to teach at Christ For The Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas. I was running late that day, and as was often the case, my three-year-old daughter, Sarah, was with me so she could attend the preschool classes.
When we pulled out of our subdivision, we ended up behind an elderly man driving an old pick up truck at about 20 mph. After following him for about five minutes on a country road that offered no opportunity to pass, we finally turned onto a four-lane highway. By this time I had totally lost my patience, and as I zoomed by his vehicle I mumbled, “Man, I’m gonna blow your doors off!”
Sarah was quiet for the next two or three miles, which I thought was rather unusual. Then with great concern in her voice, she asked, “Daddy, why are you going to blow that man’s doors off?” While watching Sesame Street, she had recently heard the story of The Three Little Pigs and the big bad wolf who blew their houses down. Now she was picturing me literally blowing the doors off this man’s truck! She had obviously been thinking about this nonstop since hearing my exclamation, and was rather alarmed and puzzled.
Try explaining to a three year old why passing a person’s car is sometimes described as “blowing their doors off.“ Then, off course, she needed to know that I really didn’t dislike this elderly gentleman, just his driving.
After this enlightening experience, I realized I would need to be more careful about what I said. My children were listening to me. Sometimes kids listen better than adults.
We've been looking at Martha's failure to listen to Christ as He taught in her home. Let's take one more look at this powerful passage. There are still a couple more pearls hidden in it that are just too good to pass up.
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. 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).
The Lord made an important statement to Martha, telling her that only a few things are really necessary in life. So far so good. Food, water, shelter from the elements, oxygen - the list of essentials really is short. Then He dropped the bombshell: "Really only one."
He had me, then He lost me.
I'm ready to admit that many of my "essentials" in life really are not. Most are for comfort, pleasure, or personal satisfaction. But the seemingly absurd claim that only one thing in life is really necessary is rather hard to swallow. But Jesus said it, and we have to deal with it.
Connecting the statement to Mary's decision to sit at the Lord's feet and listen to His words makes His meaning rather obvious. Here's my opinion of what Jesus meant: "Martha, if you will truly connect with Me, everything else in life will fall into place. Order will be established; relationships will make sense; I'll guide your steps into purpose and destiny; I'll teach you to prosper - everything will work well if you'll simply listen to Me. All you really need to do in order to enjoy a successful and enjoyable life is listen to Me. The pleasure of My company will also be the source of your success, fulfillment, and well-being."
Astounding, incredible, wonderful, generous...and simple. Yet life gets complicated. The pace quickens, the to-do list grows, and the Martha side of our nature kicks in. The voice of the Master is then drowned out by the pace of life. When this occurs, and it will, the solution is to return to the simple strategy of Mary: sit and listen. Let's look again at what the apostle Paul said of the Corinthian Church: "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, emphasis mine) Life truly can be complicated, but relationship with Jesus isn't.
The passage in Luke says that Mary "chose" the right activity. Most of us don't believe, or we don't take the time to consciously consider, that we always have the ability to choose the simple devotion demonstrated by Mary. But we do.
After informing Martha that only one thing was really necessary, Jesus then referred to Mary's choice as "good." That seems rather lame until the Greek word used is really understood. There are two Greek words that He could have used, agathos and kalos. Kalos means something is made well and looks good. It is even used for "beauty" or "handsome;" in our day we use the term "good-looking." Kalos can even include inner beauty or virtue. The word stops short, however, of suggesting practical usefulness. A good example of kalos would be a beautiful picture - it looks good but has no practical use.
When a word is needed, however, that adds the concept of usefulness or benefit, agathos is chosen. To fully convey this aspect, agathos is often translated "good works." Essentially, kalos is good looks, agathos is good works. Jesus said Mary chose agathos.
The irony of this is astounding. The person doing nothing was credited with doing the "good works," not the person doing all the good works! That ain't right, as we say in Texas. But it was, and it is. Christ was saying, "You look good, Martha, but your busyness won't produce the good works you are looking for. Mary chose that which will enable her to truly do good works, and her fruit will remain."
As one who gives his life to full-time ministry in the church, I am terrified by this passage. It shows me that I can be very busy in ministry without it producing genuine and lasting fruit. I can look good, without really doing good. We must always remember that it is Christ's life flowing through us that produces eternal fruit in others, not our abilities and self-chosen activities. I'm afraid all of us are seduced by this "good-looking" seductress of busyness once in a while.
Jesus warned a group of believers in Scripture that this was happening to them. "You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead," He said to the church of Sardis (Revelation 3:1). In order for these folks to have maintained a reputation of being alive, they would have had to still look fruitful. To the casual observer, their works must have been impressive. But the Lord looks not at our outward appearance, but at the heart (see 1 Samuel 16:7). He judges our works based on their eternal significance, not on how they look to other people. His message to the Sardis believers was, "You're kalos, not agathos. Stop with all the busyness and choose the good part - Me."
Christ is the source of all that is good - destiny, fulfillment, well-being. He offers us access to an infinite fountain of blessing. But we must make choices each day that will steer us toward accomplishing the good works that, long before time, He prepared for us. Choose to rest in His abundance and drink from His living waters. May our hearts never be led astray from a simple, pure, and steadfast devotion to Christ.
Now that I've written myself into a state of deep conviction, I think I'll put pen and paper away and go listen for a while. Perhaps if I do, I can work less and accomplish more...And maybe even enjoy the pleasure of His company a little more often.
Pray with me:
Father, we pray for Your American kids, so many of whom have become a kalos motivated portion of Your family. We’ve bought the lie that polish, size, buildings, and “a name that we were alive” defined success. That, along with speed and size. We became so “good” at it, we didn’t even need Holy Spirit. It hasn’t mattered to us that as our churches grew, no positive change occurred in the divorce rate, crime rate, deaths from drugs, homelessness, human trafficking, government and other concerns. In fact, we lost ground in all of these areas. We have epitomized kalos.
But this is changing! A “sit at His feet” movement is coming; a “tired of religion” company of believers is emerging. We are hungry for You! And we will pass on our insatiable hunger to a dissatisfied generation, an “I’ve tried it all and nothing has satisfied” company, desperate for the real thing. They are ripe for agathos and You won’t disappoint them!
The great rescue is beginning!
Dutch Sheets, The Pleasure of His Company (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2014), pp 73-80.