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)
What can we learn about the Holy Scriptures from the above passage?
1. Martha welcomes Jesus into her home. Just because one chooses Church ministry over studying the Word does not mean that such a person is not a Christian. Martha welcomed Jesus into her home, as many do their lives. However, if we believe that works will keep us in the kingdom, we are mistaken. Good works are done from faith, and the Holy Scriptures feed such faith. In James 2, we read in the last part of this series that we cannot be mere "readers" of "consumers" of the Word. We have to be "doers" of the Word, too, or we are revealing ourselves to have no faith in Christ. Likewise, the reverse is true: if you are continually doing, without the Word in your hearts, you are still stuck in the old covenant of works, and the truth is not in you. Remember, faith comes from keeping the Word in your heart. Good works come out of faith.
2. Those who listen to Christ's teaching are in their right minds. In Luke 8, a demoniac was released from his possession, and when the town found him, he was clothed, seated at Jesus' feet, listening to his teaching, and in his right mind (Luke 8:35). Emotional responses are meaningless without the Word to inform them. No one watches only the end of a movie. One has to watch the build up of information that informs the mind, so that the viewer will intellectually know what is happening, and then when the emotional climax comes, it has power, because of all the information that has built up over the course of the story. Likewise, the Word of God enters through the mind and the power comes when the mind puts everything together. Works come from the gratitude that comes from embracing the truth--the knowledge of truth by faith.
3. Christians can get distracted with much serving. Without the Word to center us, we become overwhelmed with works and become anxious. Then we begin to blame others for our issues. The Word of God re-centers us and keeps that line of Word to mind to heart to good works strong and focused.
Look at 1 Corinthians 7:32-35:
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
Now, in context, this passage is specifically about marriage, but in a general, biblical context we can see that Mary is "unmarried" and is trying to please the Lord. Martha is "married" and is trying to please her spouse. Who is the spouse? The Church? The World? Whatever it is, she is not putting the Lord first. She is not devoting herself to Christ and letting her service to the Church come out of that love. Anxiety ensues. Serving is not a bad thing, but Christians serve out of gratitude for Christ's sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. If we attempt to serve in order to garner Christ's acceptance, we find ourselves still trapped in the old covenant of works and still in need of salvation.
Jesus, in Matthew and Luke, tells us not to be anxious about worldly things. All of the things you need to survive, God knows you need them, and he will provide. All else is based on want, and the Good Shepherd takes that want away. Really, the only thing we need is Christ himself, he is the only thing that is necessary, and we grasp hold of him by faith through his word. Listening to Christ's words through the Bible is what Jesus calls "the good portion" and that cannot be taken away. The enemy can take away food and shelter and clothing. The enemy gives us our wants, because he knows that they will incapacitate us. Only God gives us what we truly need, and that is Christ, and that is through his word.
Hear verses from Psalm 16:
The Lord is my chosen portion
and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.