Theme of the Week: Stewarding Time
Bible Verse: “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
Scripture Reading: Luke 10:38-42
My young adult daughter says I’m the worst manager of personal time she knows. I double-checked with her right now to confirm, and she stands by it.
She says I’m late for things and that I don’t like to agree to appointment times with her, as I say phrases like “in about 15 minutes” versus “in 15 minutes.”
I disagree with her that I’m the worst personal time manager she knows, but then again, perhaps she only associates with punctual type-A people! My type-B personality simply appreciates flexibility. At work, I have to respect colleagues’ schedules and project deadlines, but at home, I’d prefer to do away with hard deadlines.
Jesus spoke somewhat about personal time management in the famous account of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10:38-42. You probably have heard the story countless times, but the general summary is that Martha was busy with household preparations, as she had opened her home to Jesus and His disciples. You can imagine that Martha presumably was cleaning up the place and getting the food ready, just as you and I would if we had guests over. Let’s also not forget the washing of guests’ feet in those times!
Her sister, Mary, however, wasn’t helping out at all. Instead, she “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” (v. 39). Understandably, Martha vented her frustration and suggested to Jesus that He didn’t care about what was happening. Rather than talking to her sister, she appealed to the authority of Jesus, “Tell her to help me!” (v. 40).
This brings us to the key verses for today, vv. 41-42, where Jesus’ response must’ve thrown dear Martha for a loop. He told her:
- she was worried and upset about many things
- ultimately, only one thing was needed
- Mary has chosen this one thing
- this one thing was better than the things Martha was choosing
- this one thing won’t be taken away from Mary
Undeniably, it’s paramount that we determine what exactly is this “one thing” since Jesus emphasized it so much! The one thing is found in v. 39 quoted above: “listening to what he said.” What was needed was to hear the Word of God, in this case not from the Bibles we have today, but as taught by Jesus in person. Mary chose to hear Jesus’ teaching, which was better than what Martha was doing, and it would stay with Mary.
One immediate observation we can make is that Jesus did not consider all activities equal. Though Martha’s efforts to be hospitable were certainly commendable, Jesus pointed out a higher priority. He actually called it the only priority in this case, namely to listen to Him. Deuteronomy 8:3 comes to mind: “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
Time can be of the essence at our jobs, where a package absolutely positively has to arrive the next day. Every second matters for emergency responders, so we drive to the side and let them speed past us. Here in this Bible passage, Jesus makes listening to God’s Word the first priority, over and above good options. With our time, we need to sense the urgency and prioritize time for the Word. By extension, we need to make any time with God our priority and cultivate it. This would include the time-tested disciplines of prayer, meditation, worship, fasting, and so forth. When we choose time with the Lord, we’re always choosing better, as Mary did, versus other options competing for our time.
Prayer: Lord, I want to be more like Mary and sit at Your feet. But so many things, good and bad, compete for my attention. Please help me to be more singular in focus and actively make time for You.
Reflection: How can we balance our time between doing the “Mary thing” of listening to God versus the “Martha thing” of responsibilities that inevitably must be done?
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