Faithlife Sermons

Better Portion

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 1 view
Notes & Transcripts
Sermon Tone Analysis
A
D
F
J
S
Emotion
A
C
T
Language
O
C
E
A
E
Social
View more →

The Better Portion

Sermon Outline
Me – Orientation
May is the busiest month of my entire year. Three out of the four major events I help coordinate all year for work fall within 20 days. It’s one of those months where every time I go to check something off my to-do list, I’m feel like I’m adding three more points. Good thing for me that the semester ends in about 20 minutes! In twelve hours, I’ll be on a plane on my way to Disney world and harry potter world. Couldn’t be more excited.
But I’ll be real with you! All of last week, I was feeling one of two things. I was either having a really significant moments where everything I read for my theology paper felt really life changing and important. OR. I was sitting at my computer STARING at the rambling in my paper wondering WHY I AM DOING THIS TO MYSELF?! WHY AM I CHOOSING TO DO MORE SCHOOL?!
But I’ll be real with you! All of last week, I was one of two things. I was either having a really significant moments where everything I read felt really life changing and important. OR. I was sitting at my computer STARING at the rambling in my paper wondering WHY I AM DOING THIS TO MYSELF?! Why am I here?!
But actually...I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else at this point in time. Bethel has been the biggest surprise of my life, and has been the community I didn’t know I needed, and I’m so thankful for it. Almost every day, I am amazed at this season of life and being at Bethel because for a long time, I wanted to be a missionary in China. I went there as a 19 year old baby Christian on a week long mission trip 10 years ago and fell in love with the country and its people. When I got back, I was that person who was recruiting anyone and everyone to come with me when we graduated. For 2 1/2 years, I was taking all my friends out to coffee one-on-one to tell them why they should come with me. And when I became an intern with a campus ministry after graduation, I was recruiting all the students to come with me! I was actually really intense about it!
I’ve been a Christian for just over 10 years. And for the first seven of those years, I believed that I was going to be a missionary in China. I went there as a 19 year old baby Christian on a week long mission trip and fell in love with this country, with its people. When I got back, I was that person who was recruiting anyone and everyone to come with me when we graduated. I won’t go into all the details, but the more I longed to serve there and be there, the more delayed it was, and the more life’s circumstances were telling me that it was not going to happen. And this was really confusing to me because I kept in touch with the local missionaries there, I prayed on my knees for this nation, I pleaded with God to help China step into their place in “every nation tribe and tongue.” I even learned how to speak Mandarin! I was doing everything a missionary in training should do. I was obeying God’s commands to make disciples of all nations and had genuine commitment to China! This sounds like a really noble and holy thing. So what was going on?
When I got back, I was that person who was recruiting anyone and everyone to come with me when we graduated. For 2 1/2 years, I was taking all my friends out to coffee one-on-one to tell them why they should come with me. And when I became an intern with a campus ministry after graduation, I was recruiting all the students to come with me! I was actually really intense about it!
I won’t go into all the details, but the more I longed to serve there and be there, the more delayed it was, and the more life’s circumstances were telling me that it was not going to happen. And this was really confusing to me because I kept in touch with the local missionaries there, I prayed on my knees for this nation, I pleaded with God to help China step into their place in “every nation tribe and tongue.” I even learned how to speak Mandarin! I was doing everything a missionary in training should do. I was obeying God’s commands to make disciples of all nations and had genuine commitment to China! This sounds like a really noble and holy thing. So what was going on?
But then something really confusing happened. I won’t go into all the details, I slowly and reluctantly began to realize that God was actually asking me to let go of this dream of being a missionary. This was really confusing to me because I was doing everything a missionary in training should do. I prayed for China. I kept in touch with the local missionaries there. I learned how to speak Mandarin. I even spent a few months wrestling with God that if I was actually going to do what I believed God was calling me to do, that I would have to accept the reality that I might be martyred someday. And I accepted that reality. I was obeying God’s commands to make disciples of all nations and had genuine commitment to China. So what was going on?
I won’t go into all the details, but the more I longed to serve there and be there, the more delayed it was, and the more life’s circumstances were telling me that it was not going to happen. And this was really confusing to me because I kept in touch with the local missionaries there, I prayed on my knees for this nation, I pleaded with God to help China step into their place in “every nation tribe and tongue.” I even learned how to speak Mandarin! I was doing everything a missionary in training should do. I was obeying God’s commands to make disciples of all nations and had genuine commitment to China! This sounds like a really noble and holy thing. So what was going on?
This was really confusing to me because I was doing everything a missionary in training should do. I prayed on my knees for China and prayed that they’d step into their place in the Great Commission. I kept in touch with the local missionaries there. I went back once a year to keep in touch with the local students I had met over the years. I learned how to speak Mandarin. I even spent a few months wrestling with God that if I was actually going to do what I believed God was calling me to do, that I would have to accept the reality that I might be martyred someday. And I accepted that reality. I was obeying God’s commands to make disciples of all nations and had genuine commitment to China. So what was going on?
All of this sounds like a really noble and holy thing, but in retrospect, there were a lot of feelings and moments that should’ve been a red flag for me. I remember feeling really jealous when, senior year, my friends were accepted to go to China but it wasn’t my time yet. I remember being angry when one of ministry teammates became known as the one with the biggest heart for the nations. When God asked me to release China back to him, I felt left without an identity.
In retrospect, and in reality, I was being obedient to the command to make disciples of all nations, but not obedient to the heart of the Father. In reality, I was committed to the cause of Christ, but not to Christ Himself. I had this false belief that God promised China to me, so I let myself become so consumed with serving Christ that I was blinded to the reality that my identity was in how I was serving Christ, not Christ Himself.
We – Identification (Tension)
And if we’re honest with ourselves, all too often, we don’t know the difference. Most of us in this room already have an idea of what it looks like for us to be committed to the cause of Christ—whether in our respective ministry contexts, families, relationships. But if we’re not careful to steward it well, we can fall into striving and the false belief that God has promised a specific kind of ministry context to us. God’s promises do not start with our own passions and gifting and what we do for Jesus. God’s promises for His people start with Him and what He has done through Jesus and the gifts He has given us.
BIG IDEA: Jesus enables us to live in His Kingdom promises that our communities might see their Kingdom purposes. (repeat)
God - Illumination
Context
The Gospel of Luke was written to is the only Gospel with a part two, which we know as the book of Acts. Luke was a physician who was most likely a Gentile by birth and familiar with both Greek and Jewish culture. Commentators believe that it is Luke’s vocation as a physician that made him especially interested in the human and earthly life of Jesus, in His works, and the works of His disciples. Up until chapter 10, we see Jesus showing his disciples his ministry: Raising the dead, healing the sick, bringing sight to the blind, etc. But chapter 10 is the first time Luke records the disciples going out to do as Jesus did. Before Jesus sends out 72 disciples, he tells them that “the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.” When the 72 return in joy that they were able to drive out demons, Jesus says “do not rejoice that the demons submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Then he tells the parable of the good samaritan who went to the beaten man on the road. He literally says “do that.” And this is where we pick it up in 10:38.
Luke 10:38–42 ESV
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.”
a. Context –
As I was reading this, I wondered why would Jesus give such clear commands to go & do, but then tell the disciples that it is not either of those things that matter? Weren’t they living out their purposes as disciples?
i. Summary of Jesus’ words
Luke is the gospel that talks about Jesus a lot as “the Son of Man.” This is likely because Luke was a physician and was intrigued by Jesus as a human and how he lived his life on earth. Up until chapter 10, Jesus shows his disciples his ministry. Raising the dead, healing the sick, bringing sight to the blind, etc. But chapter 10 is the first time Luke records the disciples going out to do as Jesus did. Before Jesus sends out 72 disciples, he tells them that “the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.” When the 72 return in joy that they were able to drive out demons, Jesus says “do not rejoice that the demons submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Then he tells the parable of the good samaritan who went to the beaten man on the road. He literally says “go and be like that.” And this is where we pick it up in 10:38.
ii. Why would Jesus give such clear commands to go & do, but then tell the disciples that it is not either of those things that matter most?
1. “Go” (Sending out laborers) & “Do not idolize the going” (rejoice that your names are written in heaven)
2. “Do” (Serve like the Samaritan) & “The doing is not the point” (The better portion will not be taken)
iii.
As I studied this passage more and read commentaries, I realized that ‘better portion” is the key to understanding this
b.
c. Better portion context
I feel bad for Martha in this chapter! She’s stereotyped as this Mary & Martha are both misunderstood in different ways
If you’re familiar with this passage, you know that Martha is often known as an overworked and busybody woman who doesn’t really care about Jesus. And Mary is often known as this calm and maybe quiet woman who just wanted to sit at the feet of Jesus as love him. But they are both misunderstood!
i. Mary & Martha are both misunderstood in different ways
While Martha’s heart wasn’t in the right place, her urgency to serve was right. This passage can easily be misconstrued as oppression of women, but there is nothing in this passage that tells us that. It’s likely and it’s possible. But what we see from Martha was faithfully living into the role she desired to live into.
ii. Martha is often known as an overworked and busybody woman. But in so many ways, she was living exactly who culture told her to be. I know this could be mistaken for stereotyping gender roles, and Mary could be known as a woman in the kitchen. But I understand this. In the Hmong culture, the kitchen is like the living room, and food is like a family member. The favorite family member! In the Hmong culture, it is seen as honoring to
A commentator wrote about Mary, saying, “Sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his word does not make Mary an ideal model of passive contemplation or silent subordination for the audience, since the word of Jesus demands the action of putting it into practice. The audience knows of Jesus’ insistence that hearing must include doing his words.”
As I was reading , was struck by Jesus’ clear commands to go places & do things in His name, but then tell the disciples that it is not either of those things that matter? Weren’t they living out their purposes as disciples? After all, he had JUST gotten done telling the disciples earlier that when they were on their way, that they should not reject the hospitality of those whose house they came to rest in.
“Go” (Sending out laborers) & “Do not idolize the going” (rejoice that your names are written in heaven)
“Do” (Serve like the Samaritan) & “The doing is not the point” (The better portion will not be taken)
If I was one of the disciples, this would feel like some serious emotional whiplash! Martha is often known as an overworked and busybody woman who doesn’t really care about Jesus. And Mary is often known as this calm and maybe quiet woman who just wanted to sit at the feet of Jesus as love him.
If you’re familiar with this passage, you know that Martha is often known as an overworked and busybody woman who doesn’t really care about Jesus. And Mary is often known as this calm and maybe quiet woman who just wanted to sit at the feet of Jesus as love him. But they are both misunderstood!
Jesus is the better portion, serving Him is merely a portion. In choosing the better portion, we are choosing God’s promise that He will never be taken from us. In choosing the better portion, we are liberated from striving and are able to enter into service by which we are empowered through God’s Spirit. Jesus’ life was never “I love the Father first, then I serve Him” it was “I love the Father first so I serve Him.”
While Martha’s heart wasn’t in the right place, her urgency to serve was right. This passage can easily be misconstrued as oppression of women, but there is nothing in this passage that tells us that. It’s likely and it’s possible. But what we see from Martha was faithfully living into the role she desired to live into.
A commentator wrote about Mary, saying, “Sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his word does not make Mary an ideal model of passive contemplation or silent subordination for the audience, since the word of Jesus demands the action of putting it into practice. The audience knows of Jesus’ insistence that hearing must include doing his words.”
2. Serving Him is a portion
I misunderstood this passage for a long time. I thought Jesus was saying, “Martha, stop doing everything and just sit at my feet. You don’t need to do anything!” Let me be clear: I am not saying that if you sense yourself putting worth in things other than Jesus, that he’s going to take it from you. I’m also not saying to stop serving Jesus and just sit with your Bible in a corner for the rest of your life. From the moment God created man in Genesis to the arrival of the New City spoken in Revelation, it is clear that we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus to see all things made new in Jesus’ name. While it’s clear that Jesus is calling Martha to slow down and reframe her heart, he doesn’t reject her urgency to serve. He says her name twice, which his a mark of intimacy in relationship. He points her to something that, I believe, would make her serving more meaningful.
Jesus is the better portion, serving Him is merely a portion. In choosing the better portion, we are choosing God’s promise that He will never be taken from us. In choosing the better portion, we are liberated from striving and are able to enter into service by which we are empowered through God’s Spirit. Jesus’ life was never “I love the Father first, then I serve Him” it was “I love the Father first so I serve Him.”
Jesus is the better portion, serving Him is merely a portion. In choosing the better portion, we are choosing God’s promise that He will never be taken from us. In choosing the better portion, we are liberated from striving and are able to enter into service by which we are empowered through God’s Spirit. Jesus’ life was never “I love the Father first, then I serve Him” it was “I love the Father first so I serve Him.”
While Martha’s heart wasn’t in the right place, her urgency to serve was right. This passage can easily be misconstrued as oppression of women, but there is nothing in this passage that tells us that. It’s likely and it’s possible. But what we see from Martha was faithfully living into the role she desired to live into.
While it’s clear that Jesus is calling Martha to slow down and reframe her heart, he doesn’t reject her urgency to serve. He says her name twice, which his a mark of intimacy in relationship. He points her to something that, I believe, would make her serving more meaningful.
3. In choosing the better portion, we are liberated from striving and are able to enter into service by which we are empowered through God’s Spirit, and confident in without putting worth or identity in
A commentator wrote about Mary, saying, “Sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his word does not make Mary an ideal model of passive contemplation or silent subordination for the audience, since the word of Jesus demands the action of putting it into practice. The audience knows of Jesus’ insistence that hearing must include doing his words.”
In other words, Mary was making a bold statement by sitting at the feet of this Jewish Rabbi. And in doing this, Jesus acknowledges her heart and sees that this is the better portion. He does not say that it is the only portion. The better portion in a Jewish meal was often the main course or dish that once it arrived would be so good that the rest of the meal previous or forthcoming would be kind of like “meh!” A few weeks ago, I got such a clear picture of what this kind of meal would’ve looked like. My siblings and I all decided to get together for dinner. It was potluck style, so people slowly started showing up with all of this food! And food is like a family member in the Hmong culture, so this was the best day ever. So I’m sitting there eating some Chinese food with my 6 year old nephew, and then I see my brother Tom walk in with this bag of styrofoam boxes, and I knew. If you know me…you know that I love my Hmong food. But purple sticky rice and crispy pork belly (glorified bacon) is my all-time favorite Hmong food. I knew that was exactly what was in the bag. So I just left this conversation with my nephew and my plate of food and grabbed the boxes out of my brother’s hands because I was like “I NEED THIS.” I open the box and I did a fake happy cry. So eventually we ate it all up and went on our way. I remember being really sad when I ate the last of my leftovers a couple days later.
THIS IS WHAT THE BETTER PORTION IS LIKE.
It wasn’t that the food I was already eating was bad or didn’t matter. It was just that in this moment, all that was necessary was this pork belly! What Jesus is saying in this passage is that unlike a better portion of a meal that you eventually run out of, this better portion of the hearing of His words will never be taken. Luke’s audience would’ve understood that hearing Jesus’ words would also include doing his words and putting them into practice.
a. Jesus’ life was never “I love the Father first, then I serve Him” it was “I love the Father first so I serve Him.”
We mistakenly read Jesus’ words “better portion” as “only portion.” Luke’s audience would’ve understood the word “portion” here synonymously with “part,” “share,” and “inheritance.” These words together were used to express language of Biblical promises…a future reality that would always be “there.”
Mary was listening, not just to retain information, but to more faithfully serve Jesus in moments like this. We must take the better portion not just because it is good, but because it is our life source which never runs out, which gives us our purpose. Jesus makes a promise in saying that it would never be taken from them. Jesus is the better portion, serving Him is merely a portion. In choosing the better portion, we are choosing God’s promise that He will never be taken from us. In choosing the better portion, we are liberated from striving and are able to enter into service by which we are empowered through God’s Spirit. Jesus’ life was never “I love the Father first, then I serve Him” it was “I love the Father first so I serve Him.” Jews would’ve understood the language of the better portion and made the connection here.
Jesus is the better portion, serving Him is merely a portion. In choosing the better portion, we are choosing God’s promise that He will never be taken from us. In choosing the better portion, we are liberated from striving and are able to enter into service by which we are empowered through God’s Spirit. Jesus’ life was never “I love the Father first, then I serve Him” it was “I love the Father first so I serve Him.” They would’ve also understood the word “portion” here synonymously with “part,” “share,” and “inheritance.” These words together were used to express language of Biblical promises…a future and eternal reality with Jesus where our work would be restorative and we’d share in resting from our labor. Jesus enables us to live in His Kingdom promises that our communities might see their Kingdom’s purposes.
They would’ve also understood the word “portion” here synonymously with “part,” “share,” and “inheritance.” These words together were used to express language of Biblical promises…a future and eternal reality with Jesus where our work would be restorative and we’d share in resting from our labor. Jesus enables us to live in His Kingdom promises that our communities might see their Kingdom’s purposes.
You – Application
Why should our lives look any different?
Where do you feel the frustration of living in this tension?
Remember God’s promises | Know your calling - God promises his goodness and faithfulness with us to the end of the age…this is how we live out the calling to make disciples of all nations and to be his ambassadors to the world.
So what is it for you? What was or is your China?
Remember God’s provision | Know your capacity (limitation and abundance) - Jesus is our provision, he is the one who gives us direct access to the Father in whom we receive good gifts. Gifts like the ability to relate to others, the ability to preach, the ability to live and love as He did. The ability to rest because we are finite beings.
Remember God’s provision - Know your capacity
Remember God’s people | Know your community/-ties - Those in our purview are not the only ones who are God’s people…we exist as part of a global community of people sitting at the feet of Jesus with the heart of Mary. It is in knowing where and who our community or communities are that we are able to live out in faith to serve Jesus with the swift and urgent hands and feet of Martha. It is within remembering and knowing that you can begin to see what you are troubled about and what you have made the better portion that cannot ultimately satisfy you or bring you purpose.
c. Remember God’s provision | Know your capacity (limitation and abundance)
a.
A couple of things to help you live in this? What are you troubled about?
It is within remembering and knowing that you can begin to see what you are troubled about and what you have made the better portion that cannot ultimately satisfy you or bring you purpose.
What are you troubled about? Family, school, relationships, money?
What are you troubled about?
What are you troubled about?
What have you made “necessary?”
Let me be clear: I am not saying that if you sense yourself putting worth in things other than JEsus, that he’s going to take it from you. I’m also not saying to stop doing
It’s likely that what you are troubled about and potentially putting worth in
III.
We – Inspiration
I’ll be honest and say that I almost walked away from Jesus because I was so angry and bitter. I was resentful towards God for giving me a glimpse into His heart for this country, only to take it away. It felt like China was this string I was chasing, like a cat chases a string.I made China the better portion and ended up having it taken from me. I want to be clear and say that God will take away everything that you love slightly more than Him. That’s not it at all. In fact, it pleases Him when we enjoy what we do for Him. This was just my specific story. Being a missionary in China was something that God gave me and asked me to steward. And I thought God was punishing me for that by taking it away. And by God’s grace, I had friends in my life who reminded me who I was in Christ, who reminded me that Christ is the better portion that will never be taken from me.
What I want to call us to is not a frantic search for what we may or may not be or have or have not idolized and made the better portion. Rather, I want to call us to return to knowing Jesus as the better portion so that the ways we serve him are done with a full heart with the better portion in our gut. After letting go of China, I thought everything was kind of a waste. And I don’t have time to share it in detail…but when I let myself return to the feet of Jesus, I realized what God did was take this seemingly dead dream and turn it into the compost that now serves as nourishment for the soil of my life. And in this soil, God continues to grow in me what it means to dream not of what I would do for him, but of who I am because of Him. It serves as nourishment for the soil of my life to remember that Jesus gave us himself as better portion so that we could remember our place in the Kingdom of God and know that we will fully and without blemish share in that portion someday.
Related Media
Related Sermons