Distraction or Devotion?
Distraction or Devotion? (Luke 10:38-42)
Our service for the Lord Jesus either grows out of personal devotion or will lead to a disturbing distraction. Mary and Martha for all time represent the contrast between devotion to Christ and distraction in the service of Christ.
Four months before the cross, Jesus stopped at the home of Martha and Mary. Jesus Himself needed a safe house, friendship, a place to retire. So do we all, if we serve Him effectively. Luke alone tells us this story. Jesus receives the quiet, personal devotion of Mary and corrects the distracted service of Martha. Service grows from personal devotion to the Lord Jesus or it leads to the distraction of the servant.
Service Without Devotion Leads to Distraction
Distraction does not imply a lack of love for the Lord Jesus. Martha indeed loved Jesus. She met Jesus in the village. She gladly welcomed Him under her roof, even though that could mean danger for her because of His disfavor with the powerful. Martha did not love Him less; she simply did not love Him best.
Many of us serve Him and love Him, but not the best way. When there is work for Him without personal devotion to Him, we cannot love Him best. He does not desire what we do for Him in the absence of time with Him.
Distraction does dominate work without worship, service without devotion. "Martha was distracted" (v. 40). She was dragged in many directions, pulled apart, drawn hither and thither. There must have been concern about the room, the table, the meal, and the guests. This was all because of the many services she wanted to render Jesus. What a contrast is Mary, composed at Jesus' feet. Mary was not unconcerned about the details. Mary also welcomed Jesus, provided for Jesus. But Mary sat composed at Jesus' feet, seeking Him before serving Him further.
Distraction without devotion demonstrates itself in certain responses.
Distraction leads to the interruption of the Lord Jesus. Martha suddenly came up to Jesus, stepped in front of Him, and with a petulant outburst interrupted Him. Working without worship can cause us to interrupt Jesus' plan for our lives and for others. When we serve Him without seeking His face we can actually block what He really wants to be doing in our life, our church, and our world.
Distraction leads to accusation. Martha accused both the Lord and Mary. She accused the Lord of not caring about her service and Mary of abandoning her without help. Simply grinding out Christian work without personal devotion to Christ causes us to become bitter towards God ("He doesn't care") and towards other Christian servants ("they don't do enough").
Distraction leads to domination. Martha wanted to dominate the Lord and Mary. She desired Christ to tell Mary what to do; and she told Him that in Mary's presence! Service without devotion leads to power games, manipulation, and demand.
We should pay close attention to Jesus' evaluation of work without worship. Inwardly, it leads to division. "Worried" means to be divided, partitioned, fragmented (v. 41). The Word sets human anxiety over against divine providence: "Cast all your anxiety upon him because he cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:7).
Outwardly, such service leads to disturbance. Without seeking Jesus' face, our service becomes agitated, bustling, and troubling. There is no poise, composure, or peace.
Devotion Before Service Leads to Commendation
In contrast to the divided and distracted demeanor of Martha stands the simple devotion of Mary. Mary sat still at the feet of Jesus and listened to His word. This is indeed the one thing we hear about Mary. The picture of Mary for time and eternity is the devotion of presence and attention to the Lord.
There is the devotion of presence. Mary sat beside Jesus at His feet, the position of a disciple. While Martha was pulled apart in different directions, Mary sat in composure before the Lord Jesus. All effective and lasting Christian service comes from this. Those who wait on His presence renew strength (Isa. 40:31).
There is the devotion of attention. Mary habitually and continually listened to His word. The mark of a disciple is devotion to the word of the Master. All busyness without this attentiveness burns out. This is the one thing that is better than all other things.
Consider the Lord's evaluation of such devotion.
Such devotion is the single necessity: "only one thing is needed." Out of that one thing grows all else. "Seek first the kingdom of God, . . . and all these things [services, preparations, activities] shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33, KJV). Actually, Jesus speaks on two levels. At the lower level He suggests that only one dish, one simple item would have sufficed to feed Him. At the higher level He speaks of the singular need for time in His presence listening to His Word.
Sometimes our service to Christ can be an imposition on Christ rather than the intention of Christ. He expects no more service than that which flows out of a living, personal devotional relationship with Him.
Such devotion is á chosen priority. "Mary has chosen what is better." In one great instant act Mary chose the better. We should not live on the level of compulsive activity but on the level of chosen priority, to seek the Lord in worship before work.
Such devotion has a promised durability: "it will not be taken away from her" (v. 42). Only the experience of the presence and Word of Christ lasts forever. Every other work will stop. Tongues are silenced, pens are stilled, steps are halted. Fellowship with Jesus lasts now and forever.
Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.