Sunday 28th January 2024

Priorities differ among individuals. What someone may value as significant may be insignificant to another person. In Luke 10:38-42 we see the story of two sisters debating over what is necessary and how Jesus responded to the situation. Similarly, in Mark 10:17-22, there is a story of Jesus meeting a rich young man who asked him about the ultimate importance.

Luke 10:38-42 tells the story of Martha and Mary. While Martha prepares dinner for Jesus and His disciples, Mary sits down and listens to Jesus. The story takes a sharp turn when Martha, distracted by her many tasks, comes to Jesus and asks, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40). Jesus’ response to Martha is significant in the narrative for our discussion today. “Martha, Martha,” “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, which will not be taken away from her” Luke 10:41-42. 

Martha was worried, troubled, dragged around, and distracted by many things. Jesus often encourages hospitality towards our neighbours, as demonstrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The issue with Martha is that she was worried and distracted by many things. The word “distracted” in verse 40 is translated from the Greek word “perispaó”, which means being pulled around, dragged in different directions, to be distracted with care, to be troubled or distressed. 

Martha was worried, troubled, dragged around, and distracted two thousand years before the internet, phones, and social media. Can you imagine how much harder it would be for Martha to cope with all these distractions in the modern world?

  • Martha’s worries and distractions prevented her from being a gracious host to Jesus.
  • She breaks all the rules of excellent hospitality by trying to embarrass her sister in front of Jesus.
  • Her worries and distractions made her offend Jesus by asking Him to intervene in a family dispute.
  • She even goes so far as to accuse Jesus of not caring about her in her distress to care for Him and His disciples.
  • In doing so, Martha missed the “one thing needed”: genuine hospitality.
  • There is no more excellent hospitality than listening to and serving your guests with dignity and honour. How much more so when the guest is Jesus!

We live in a time of endless distractions and worries that never disappear. We reside in a fast-paced world where people often measure their worth by how busy they are or how well they meet the expectations of others. Everyone is worried about something at some point in time. Some people are worried about Jobs, redundancy, the economy, bills, cost of living, money, gossip, health, and wars. Celebrities usually worry about the paparazzi. 

God created us as emotional people and gave us our emotions to put us “into motion.” Worry is the thought process that allows us to overcome our fear. Therefore, worry should not be a problem; too much worry can affect your mental health in many ways. During His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34).

In the story of Mark 10:17-22, a wealthy young ruler asked Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The young man was concerned about many things, including his power, wealth, and the kingdom of God. The rich young ruler’s question is also a question of priority. He didn’t want to miss the “one thing needed. “ He felt that the kingdom of God should be at the top of his priorities. In response, Jesus lists the six most socially concerned commandments from the Decalogue, which are:

1. You shall not murder

2. You shall not commit adultery

3. You shall not steal

4. You shall not give false testimony

5. You shall not defraud

6. Honour your father and mother.

The rich man answered: “All these I have kept since I was a boy” (Mark 10:20). Jesus looked at him, loved him, and said to him: You lack one thing.” “That ‘one thing’ is the “one thing needed ” and that is the “treasures in heaven.

To get the treasures in heaven, the rich young ruler must sell everything he has, give the proceeds to the poor then come and follow Jesus (Mark 10:21). The man could not let go of his earthly possessions and power to obtain the “one thing needed “: heavenly treasures. He was rich on earth but not in heaven, but he could not let go of the love, comfort, and sense of security tied to his wealth and power. Although the rich man appears open to Jesus’ teachings, his attachment to worth and power distracts his willingness to be a true disciple of Jesus.

The Rich Young Ruler and Martha were lucky enough to encounter Jesus in their lives, but their worries, distractions, and priorities prevented them from having this fantastic experience. So many distractions can take us away from Jesus – our work, family, wealth, power, position, or other things. These things are not supposed to prevent one from being a faithful Christian. Paul said in Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword?

Jesus Christ holds everything together. He can hold us to what is truly important rather than what we think is essential. Although worries and distractions can be inevitable, Jesus can help us overcome them with His love, grace, and mercy. When we draw closer to Him and His cross, we can find peace amidst our distractions and worries. Each of us has something that can distract us from the “one thing needed “: treasures in heaven”. We need to examine our hearts and find out what can hinder us from building treasures in heaven.

For Martha, “one thing needed “: was to sit and serve. However, if everyone just sat and listened to Jesus, no one would attend to their physical needs. Therefore, there must be a balance between listening to Jesus and serving others. We might be called to serve in various capacities as people of God, or we might be called to sit at Jesus’ feet in prayer and read the word of God. Both are important, but the motivation is even more important.Spiritual discernment is vital in knowing when to do each of these tasks.We should prioritize spending time and paying attention on Jesus, especially when life’s distractions pull us in different directions. We can achieve this by engaging in daily prayer and weekly worship and seeking intimacy (into me, you see) with Jesus. Mary demonstrated her intimacy with Jesus by sitting at His feet and listening and learning from Him.

Finally, if we were to ask Jesus which example applies to us, the Samaritan or Mary, His answer would PROBABLY be both. Sometimes, we need to go out and serve others, love them, and share our faith. However, as we do these things, we should remember to spend quality time with Jesus through prayers and reading the Bible and vice versa.

Rev Michael

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