“Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 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.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.'” (Luke 10:38-42).
I’ve been meditating quite a bit on this passage, and what it means, even more importantly, what it actually says, and it has led me to wish to confess this to each of you. Here we see two sisters who were very devout in the faith, and who were enamored at the presence of He whom they knew to be the Messiah. These two are the sisters of Lazarus, whom we read about in the Gospel of John (John 11). And in meditating on this passage, I see a very important message contained herein.
We see two sisters here, both of whom are adamant believers in the Lord, and both of whom respond differently to being in His presence. On the one, we see Mary, who sits at the feet of our beloved Lord, reveling in His presence, listening attentively to all that He has to say. And, on the other, we see Martha, who is so busied with her service and accommodation of the Lord that she is too busy and anxious, tired, to just enjoy being in His presence. We see this one sister who is so set on trying to accomplish everything that she refuses to share company with Him.
So often, in our day, we are Martha. It is a fact that the Lord has laid heavily upon my heart as well. So often, we mistake productivity for busy-ness. Consider how much time that you dedicate unto our Lord daily, now how much of that is spent in stillness? The Lord has laid it upon me how guilty I am of this very thing. The time that I dedicate daily to the things of the Lord, how much of it is spent on study and reading theology, on writing blogs, etc, versus how much of it is spent just sitting still and quiet and listening to the Lord. It was as though my faith itself had been distilled down to what facts I could learn, what cross-references, what “deeper meaning” I could find beneath His words, rather than just sitting in silence and listening. In the Psalms, the Lord admonishes us to “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 45:11 LXX).
This stillness is one of the Spiritual disciplines that I most strongly struggle with. I constantly feel the need to study, to dig, to find…searching for any deeper meaning that I can. And yet, the Lord promises us that His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. And, through my own understanding I may be able to find meanings so deep that the original authors never intended them to be there. But, what good does that do? What good is it to climb the highest up a ladder if the ladder is on the wrong building? Of what use is it to break up the fallow ground if the soil is pure clay beneath? I could labor for years, but never be able to draw water from a stone.
This is my confession. In my pride, I constantly mistake busy-ness with productivity. And, this sin is one that I intend to work much more on. To take much more quiet time alone, blocking out the outside distractions and dedicating myself to listening to the word of God. Not in trying to over analyze the words of Scripture, but rather to let the Lord speak for Himself. What part of my wisdom could ever surpass the importance of the words of the Lord Himself? I’ve written so often about the verse “Whoever hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was built on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was it’s fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27).
I believe very strongly that all of Scripture is inspired by God. And, because of that belief, I would rather read and believe what I read than to attempt to explain it in a manner that makes sense to me. I will continue to read, and study Scripture, as I always have. However, I shall also be taking much more of that time and dedicating it to pausing and listening to the words of the Lord, to God the Word, our Beloved Jesus. And that not “reading between the lines,” but rather looking at it objectively. I’ve always believed that when Jesus said, “it’s hard for the rich to inherit the kingdom,” that what He meant was “it’s hard for the rich to inherit the kingdom,” and when He says that we must care for the poor, the persecuted, the hungry; what He meant was that we must care for the poor, the persecuted, the hungry.
Those who claim to believe that the words of Scripture are the sole authority (Sola Scriptura), I challenge you to ask, do you truly believe that? I am pausing my study of the Book of Romans to study one of the Gospels, and I challenge you to pay attention to the readings as well as my studies, in fact, even moreso than my studies. If you truly believe in Scripture as the sole authority, what do you do with verses like “whosoever believes in Me will do the same works that I do.” (John 14:12)? What do you do with a verse that challenges the other verses that are so oft quoted in our culture? “For grace you have been saved by faith, and this not of your own works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9), thus obviously works have nothing to do with our salvation, until the next verse, “for you are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” (Ephesians 2:10). So often, in our generation, we seek to make things fit into our mold for something; we approach things with a theological doctrine already in place and then try to stretch the words of Scripture across that mold, instead of adapting our “mold” based on what is plainly in Scripture. I’ve heard arguments about election and predestination, but then read verses like “the Lord…is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) and the Lord “desires that all men should be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4). My challenge is this, as I have done in reading and studying these passages, forget your preconceived notions, unlearn the theology which has been ingrained into you, and allow the words of Scripture itself to speak for itself. Allow the words of God to have the actual authority, rather than the interpretation of man. Even if you don’t read any part of my study, read the passages that I am writing about and see what the Scripture is plainly stating, rather than what you were taught growing up.
My goal is to study the words of Jesus, meditating on His words, as Mary did, and growing in my relationship with Him; rather than following the example of Martha, who spent so much time working that she never stopped to listen to what He was actually saying. Remember, the passage says that while Martha was busy serving, Mary sat at His feet, and heard His word. This is not to say that there must not be service, to the contrary, there must be much more service (according to Scripture) than is prevalent in the Church, but there must also be that time of stillness, where we allow God Himself to teach us and to reveal Himself to us. May we never forget this teaching from the Gospel itself, and may we never become so busy doing our “work for the kingdom” that we ignore the very King Himself. I pray that the Lord would guide each of us, you and I, into the continued growth of our relationship with Him. Never again mistaking busy-ness for productivity, neither mistaking knowledge for maturity. We must know Scripture, but knowing Scripture alone is never enough if we don’t know our Lord Himself.
May the peace of the Lord be with you all, my beloved brethern.