“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 10:41-42)
This story’s really been hitting me in the last day or two. Jesus goes after a habit I have, and habits I’ve seen other people cultivate too. For us overachievers who feel good about ourselves when we have a lot going on and spend our days running from bed to shower to work to second-job-on-lunch-break to more work to work after hours, Jesus points out the danger of all our good activities.
And he really goes after them. Martha was serving. You know, the thing Paul commands all Christians to do in Philippians 2. The thing Jesus models in John 14 and commands his disciples to do. The thing Jesus does on the cross. Serving. But Jesus still calls her out on it.
The key word in the story is “distracted.” We’re told Martha is “distracted” by serving, and therein lies the problem. She’s so distracted by all the good things she’s doing she mistakes the good things as necessary things. Jesus gently redirects her, and points out that even these good things are not necessary.
I’ve been extending this to a slightly different arena too. I’ve gotten some difficult health news in the last couple days, which complicates already existing conditions. It’s easy for me–a productivity addict–to wonder why God’s taken away this good thing. Because I’m sick I can’t do all the things I wanted to do in the next few years. It’s set me back quite a ways.
But, of course, that’s precisely what Jesus says. They were good things. But they weren’t necessary.
Dreams of graduating college super early and heading off to seminary or taking a job in some exciting city, getting some experience early–they were good dreams. They are good dreams. But they aren’t necessary. Why? “Mary’s chosen the good portion,” Jesus says, “which will not be taken away from her.”
Good goals are great but someone will eventually take them away. Drive and service and productivity will eventually die out. Health will go someday, perhaps sooner, perhaps later. But Jesus stays.
That’s a hard thing for me to learn. I think it’s worth it, though. My dreams are not Jesus, and neither is my health. He’s better than them both.