The Good Part: Prioritizing the Christian Life
There is never enough time in the day to get everything done. We rush from one place to another and hope there is no traffic, or that the drive-through line is not outrageous, or that the preacher on Sunday morning doesn’t go past noon so we can get to our favorite restaurant before the lunch rush.
We live in a world where we need things done quickly and efficiently so we can move on to the next task. This is the life that a lot of people are living, but it doesn’t show balance. This life might excel at work, school, or other areas of life, but it is devoid of the one thing that matters—Christ.
In Luke 10, we see Jesus come to the town of Bethany. Jesus would visit this town many times throughout His ministry, especially in the last week of His life.
In this account, He would come to Bethany and be welcomed by Martha into her home. As Jesus comes inside, we are given a scene that sets the tone of this entire story: Jesus sits down and Mary, Martha’s sister, sits at his feet and “heard His word.” Where is Martha? She is “cumbered about much serving.”
That word cumbered in the Greek means to be distracted. So while Mary was sitting and listening to Jesus, Martha was distracted. Sound familiar?
In the church, especially in America, there are many Marthas. They’re not necessarily doing anything wrong. They are running around serving: Getting their kids to school and practice, getting to church or Bible Study, maybe volunteering for outreaches.
A child, teenager, or young adult might be working hard at school and feeling like they’re drowning in homework assignments with no end in sight. If any of this is you, then you are a Martha—distracted by life with no room for Christ.
What we need to realize is that while Martha was distracted, Mary was sitting and listening. Martha was on her feet, running around, and getting tired while Mary was sitting down, resting, and listening to the words of Jesus Christ.
Martha might have thought, “This isn’t fair. Why does she get to sit while I do all the work? Why do I have to pick up her slack? I am doing all of the work while she does nothing. Tell her to quit being lazy and come work. Tell her to become distracted just like me.” The Bible does not say these exact words, but this is what Martha meant when she looked at Jesus and said, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me” (Luke 10:40).
Only Martha did not get the response from Jesus that she thought she would: “And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
While Martha complains about Mary, Jesus applauds her. Martha was anxious, troubled, and distracted. She was so worried about serving that she had no time for Jesus Christ, the guest in her own house.
Mary, on the other hand, was not worried about serving. She was sitting at the feet of Jesus and soaking it all in. Jesus said that Mary was doing what was needful or necessary. In fact, He said that “one thing” is needful. He even called it the “good part” or the good portion, and He was not going to take it from her.
While the church has a bunch of Marthas running around, we have too few Marys willing to leave everything to the side and just sit at the feet of Jesus.
We hear over and over again that Jesus comes first. Since Sunday school, we’ve had the commandment memorized, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” In our minds Jesus does come first, but we think serving is putting Jesus first. We think running around is doing the work of God. The thing is, we are distracted.
Priorities should be part of every believer’s life, but when setting those priorities, Christians tend to fall into three groups. The first group is to have no priorities at all. These believers do whatever pops up in the moment, and they bounce from one event to the next. For a Christian, this is one of the most dangerous ways to live. A relationship with Christ must be cultivated and cared for, so without any priorities, that relationship will go to the wayside as they continue doing whatever pops up in the moment only to realize that what never pops up is Christ.
The second group is the one Martha was in. She had priorities in place, just not in the correct order. Martha serving her guests was not a bad thing. She was being hospitable and trying to make sure that her guest had everything that He needed. However, she placed that above the relationship with her special guest. Martha was so busy serving that she had no time for sitting.
This is where a lot of Christians find themselves—they have Christ as a priority, He is just not the top priority. He’s there, a relationship is being cultivated, and they love God, but they are distracted with life.
The last group is the one that Mary falls into. This is someone who has her priorities in the right place. Mary was not neglecting serving. She just knew what needed to happen first, which was to sit at Jesus’ feet, listen to His words, and not be distracted or worried about what Martha was saying about her. Mary was focused on Jesus.
Most Christians today are Marthas. They have priorities, and Christ is one of them, but they are distracted with life. But this is not where we should be. We should have Christ as our number one priority. The one thing that is needful is Him.
The choice is yours. Martha chose distraction while Mary chose the good part. What will you choose today? If you find yourself as a Martha, it’s time to sit. Stop serving, stop being distracted, and sit at the feet of Jesus.
If you find yourself as a Mary, then continue to put God first. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Whatever you need, and whatever you are working for, God will give it and provide it. All we need to do is rest and listen. Be a Mary and choose that good part.