Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
We are distracted with many things. Life is very full of distractions right now. The basic idea of distraction is “to be drawn away from something”. The practical reality of the use of this term in the New Testament is, “to be so overburdened by various distractions as to be worried and anxious.” That is almost our “new normal” for life right now. But distractions are exhausting and place a horrible amount of stress on our lives. Many things that distract us are things we think are important, in fact they might even appear to be good things – like serving. Martha was being very hospitable and doing the normal things expected and necessary to be a good host. That probably would not have been an issue at all, except that Mary was not helping. What a picture of our current times. We are “anxious and troubled about many things” and we often feel very frustrated with others because they are not giving us the help that we want from them. We cannot figure out why others do not see how important these things are to us and it is disrespectful for them to be doing nothing.
We are often frustrated by people who are not as distracted as we are. That sounds like a really silly statement, but it is true. Martha was frustrated that Mary (her sister) was not helping with those things that were distracting her – the normal and traditional responsibilities of hospitality. She is so disturbed that she interrupts and tries to get Jesus to get Mary moving. Does that sound familiar? We might find ourselves very distracted by many things in our life right now, and nobody, especially those who know us well seem completely indifferent to how important these things are to us. So, we often interrupt and barge-in on their life and try to force them to be as concerned about the things we are distracted by so we can feel better about our distractions. And we might appeal to their walk with Jesus to see if that will get them to start valuing what we value. If we are going to be distracted, worried and anxious, the least that people can do is join us. It is even better if we can leverage their relationship with Jesus to get them to respond.
Jesus tells Martha that there is only one thing that is truly necessary. That “one thing” was sitting at Jesus feet and listening to him teach. Jesus was not going to take that “one thing” away from Mary. That was quite the rebuke to Martha. I wonder if Martha went crazy hearing that from Jesus. She probably thought that Jesus would obviously see “her distractions” the same way she saw them; the perfect strategy to get Mary off her “back end” and doing what Martha knew was best for her is to spiritualize it. Without any hesitation, she inserts herself into that conversation to interrupt this “sitting around doing nothing” and to get Jesus to push her agenda. Only one problem with this approach – Jesus did not agree with Martha about forcing Mary to get dragged into Martha’s distractions.
The key to living in a heavily distracted environment – simplify and focus. Mary appears to just ignore the distractions around her but she did keep focused on the one thing that was most necessary… Jesus. There might be many distractions in front of you; there are many things you are anxious about; there are many obligations you are worried about, but there is, ultimately, one focus that is more necessary than all the rest – Jesus. This may sound too simple and not helpful in a flood of distractions. But it is probably the best way to declutter, simplify and focus on the one thing that is more important than ever – Jesus. If you are distracted, anxious, worried and frustrated that no one cares about your distractions – something may need to change and it might not be everyone else.
Pastor Brad Little