When someone asks me how I am, often my response is, “busy”. When I say this, I am not trying to win a contest or boast. Rather, I am trying to describe what life is like, and I am guessing that it is not just me who feels like this. You might get stuck on social media for a couple of hours but, generally, our lives are full of good and meaningful things. We are busy trying to lead fulfilling lives with our families and within communities.
However, Jesus gives us a warning that busyness can put us at risk of doing something dangerous. In Luke’s biography of Jesus, we read an intriguing scene where Jesus highlights this very danger. Jesus is at the house of sisters, Mary and Martha. We are told that Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to him teach. On the other hand, Martha is tirelessly bustling in the kitchen, endeavouring to host her guest. Martha finds it annoying to witness her sister simply listening to Jesus; she wants all hands on deck to make this event a success. Luke Chapter 10 says:
40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
The key word here is distracted. Martha allowed her busyness to become a distraction from the most important thing. Jesus responds to Martha:
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Martha thinks there is a lot that needs to be done for the meal. Jesus says there is one thing above all else that needs to be done. He points to Mary and says she has chosen the good part. The Greek word “part” can be translated to “portion”. At this dinner party, Mary has chosen the best portion. Just like when dessert gets divided at my house, the kids quickly scan the potions and, within milliseconds, choose the best one – typically the largest serving or the one with the most custard or chocolate.
Jesus says Mary has scanned what is being served up at this dinner party and she “chose” the best portion – sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to him. Jesus emphasises that above all else – ahead of your work, your family and your physical needs – there is one thing that is truly necessary: to listen to Him. Following Jesus is not merely another item to add to the priority list, nor is he another plate to keep spinning in an already hectic life. He transcends all that. Jesus is the one thing that must come before all else. When he becomes our “one thing” in the midst of our busy lives, he promises to grant us the rest that we are working so hard to attain.