38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
This Christmas, let’s be like Mary, shall we? And just remain FIXATED ON THE LORD. On the other hand, like some people, MARTHA WAS FRANTIC ABOUT LABORING. Busy, busy, busy. How many of y’all camped out outside of Target or Best Buy on the Friday after Thanksgiving? How many of y’all would if you could? Is that not the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever seen?! Grown men and women—at least they look like grown men and women. ‘Cause they sure don’t act like it. Remember Cabbage Patch Dolls? And Tickle Me Elmo? Any time a new iPod comes out. Boy, boy, boy! Folks that’s supposed to be adults. Responsible. Mature. Middle aged women, big, strong men—look like they ought to be a bouncer at some club somewhere. Grandmothers!! All screaming and fighting over dolls!! “Gimme it!! I saw it first!! It’s MIIIIINE!!!”
Wal-Mart, Target, the mall. Just wall-to-wall people. Gotta go here, gotta go there. Running up piles of debt they ain't never gonna pay. Fighting over parking spots. Dragging their kids behind them or dumping them off at babysitters. Hiding stuff. Wrapping it. Why? I'll admit. I used to get caught up in it. But not like some people do.
FRANTIC ABOUT LABORING. Look at verse 40. Get a load of this! Martha telling Jesus what to do! Sounds like she ought to be on TBN. “Martha was distracted with much serving…” The KJV says, “cumbered.” I don’t think I've ever used that word in my entire life. Cumbered. Distracted. From a couple of dictionaries: To be driven about mentally, to be over-occupied, too busy about a thing; drawn apart; drawn in different directions; diverted from its object; perplexed; harassed; confounded. Sound about right? Martha was letting things pull her in different directions. She was cooking and cleaning and sweeping and dusting. Getting everything ready for the Lord. “Ooh, look Lord! Look at all these things I’m DOING to get ready for You.”
But He’s already there. He’s already there. All she had to do was to sit and listen. Because sometimes that’s all He wants from us—our attention. I read a quote from the great Puritan writer Joh Bunyan (HatTip: ReformationNation). He was talking about prayer, and the fact that so many people think that we have to be all flowery and all fancy and use a bunch of thou’s and thine’s and get all King James about it. But it’s not about the words we say. It’s not about us giving Him a laundry list—or, a Christmas wish list. It’s about getting our hearts right. Knowing that God is with us. Christ may be sitting at the right hand of the Father, but His Spirit is with all those who believe. And sometimes we just have to get quiet and focus on that. Here’s that quote:
In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart.
Look at that last part of verse 40. “…do You not care…” I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. We’re gonna look at Jesus’ response shortly. But right now, look at what Martha is saying. “I’m doing all these things for You and You don’t even care!” There’s a lot of people in church like that. They gotta have everything just perfect. They’ve got an image to keep up after all! We can't let the riff-raff in. We can't have this place looking shabby. Or they run from one ministry to another to another. All so they can look good to others. It’s almost like they're building a resume for a position in Heaven.
And they’ll look down on people who don’t do as much. And they’ll brag about all they do. And they’ll cry out in prayer, “Oh, Lord! Nobody sees all the things I do! Can't you get some of these lazy people out of their seats and help me?” They're doing a lot of good things. But they're missing out on the best things. Just like around Christmas time. People spend so much time and effort into all their activities that they forget what’s really important. Psalm 46:10—God tells King David, Be still and know that I AM God. FIXATE ON THE LORD. Don’t always be FRANTIC ABOUT LABORING.
Then, in verse 41 we have an example in Martha that MANY THINGS DESIRE OUR ATTENTION. We’re gonna do a little word study here. Look at that word, “troubled.” The Greek word Luke uses here, that’s translated “troubled” actually comes from the Latin word “turbe.” We get several words out of that. “Turbo”—like a turbocharger. We also get the word “disturbed.” The Greek word here can be translated “turbid.” It means stirred up, muddy, cloudy. Here, it means “disturbed, having a troubled mind.” Why do I say all this? Because when we get so wrapped up in doing, our mind gets clouded, and our thoughts get muddied. Have you ever heard someone say, “I'm so mad I can't see straight?” Need I say more?
There are so many things that desire our attention. The shopping and the baking and the parties and the going to Grandma’s and the relatives coming in from out of town. If it’s such a hassle to do all these things, why not just be honest with people and say, “I just can't do it.” Yes it’s nice to get to see your family; I would never begrudge anybody of that. But when you got Ma and Pa having to go through all kinds of preparations to get ready, and the kids are having to drive—or fly—so far to get there, and the trip is more aggravating than it is enjoyable—then just say so. And if you can't organize your office’s or your church’s Christmas party—then say so, and relax, and make this holiday about Christ.
And although MANY THINGS DESIRE OUR ATTENTION, what is the ONE THING THAT DESERVES OUR ATTENTION? Verse 42. One thing. Forget all the gifts. Forget the lights. You can even forget the tree. Forget going across town, and out of town, and across the country. If your mind is so clouded with things that are here today and gone tomorrow, then you have missed out on the “one thing.” I want to point out a few times when the Holy Spirit led the writers to use the phrase “one thing.”
Psalm 27:4— One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. Imagine if more people took this attitude. Instead of desiring and seeking the latest new toys, if we were just happy to be in the house of the LORD.
Mark 12:21— Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” Jesus told this young man, “If you only knew what you are missing out on by loving the things you have more than you love Me.”
John 9:25— He answered and said, “Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” I love this account of the blind man, standing before the Pharisees, not knowing a whole lot of doctrine. But he does know one thing—that Jesus opened his eyes, and that he loves this Jesus.
Philippians 3:13— this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before… If there is one thing we should all do, it is this: forget the hurt and pain of the past, don’t be all worried about what tomorrow is going to bring. Just keep pressing on to reach the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
In Luke 10:41, Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the “one thing” that was needful. Because look back at verse 39. Mary, “…sat at His feet and…” did what? “…heard His word.” In other words, when Jesus speaks, put everything down, stop what you're doing, and listen. Don’t be troubled about many things, but do the “one thing” that is needful. Because all the lights and decorations and the tree and the gifts—they can all be taken away. But when you are in the presence of Almighty God, and you are listening for His voice and you allow His word to penetrate your heart and your mind, and if you are focused on Him—friends that is something no one can ever take away.
And as we enter this holiday season, and we get caught up in the American idea of Christmas—that idea that says we have to go all-out and fill up every waking minute we have with activities and busyness, let’s not get worried and troubled about these “many things.” Instead, let’s focus on the “one thing.” Let’s choose that “good part.” If we do, it will never be taken away.