“Now it happened as [Jesus and the disciples] went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:38-42, NKJV).
Christmas is upon us now – I trust you’ve had your fill so far of frosted sugar cookies and tacky sweaters and hot cocoa – and I wanted to bring a Christmas theme out of a Scripture that is probably quite familiar to many of us, that concerning the Bible celebrity sisters Mary & Martha.
One noteworthy slice of the passage that you may have overlooked was the fact that Martha… not Mary, or even a collaboration of the sisters… but Martha invited the Lord into their house. The Message translation of God’s Word indicates that she “made Him feel quite at home.” It’s unclear as to whether her decision to invite Jesus in was spontaneous, or if this stay was an event that had been planned for months, but either way, it was Martha’s idea and decision.
The sourly ironic part of what happened is that while she was chugging steadily along in the kitchen to prepare her very best for Jesus, she actually left Jesus in the other room.
Of course, neither Martha nor Mary were ever perfect people. But there is something to be learned from what Martha did wrong and what Jesus said Mary did right. What I wanted to point out is that, in this instance, Martha was task-driven and Mary was Presence-driven.
In other words, Martha ended up serving a task, while Mary was serving the King.
In our eager service for the Lord, in our well-intentioned tasks for Christ, it’s so easy to let that – the work – consume us. It is for the best cause ever, right? But we might mistake completing tasks in Jesus’ Name for spending time loving Jesus. If this is the case, we will arrive in Heaven proudly and claim, “Lord, I preached sermons that people downloaded thousands of times onto their phones!” or “I arranged the most detailed and splendid worship sets!” or “I was faithful to never miss a single week of serving in my church!” and Jesus will look us squarely in the eyes and reply, “I never knew you.”
I wonder how many times it happens that zealous Christians – maybe even you and me – are committed to a task, a noble one, but Jesus is nowhere to be found in our efforts. I wonder if He has moved on long ago (or maybe we moved past Him long ago), and here we are, alone, whittling down our religious task list. The One we once invited in heartily and loved so dearly is sitting in the living room while we are in the kitchen, too busy slicing carrots to even notice that we are worshiping the task instead of worshiping Him.
Don’t misunderstand me: it’s important for us to be servant-hearted. Jesus actually commands us to be cheerful and willing servants, point blank (check out my thoughts on that here). This post is not to suggest that we ought to be lazy or resist being faithful in the work God has entrusted to us.
What I am saying is that when we are task-driven, we will inevitably miss Jesus.
But when we are Presence-driven, not only will we be authentic lovers of Jesus, but we will also be empowered to serve the Church and build His Kingdom from a place of genuine reverence and passion.
So how can we be Presence-driven? Some ideas..
- First, ask the Holy Spirit to continuously awaken you to Jesus. This is the Holy Spirit’s primary purpose and absolute joy!
- Purposefully spend time with Jesus… and not to gather a sermon idea or for the purpose of writing a worship song! Simply be with Jesus.
- Keep the well full. Check out an earlier post of mine that elaborates on this.
- Regularly invite the Holy Spirit to examine your motives. Ask Him to point out if you are serving a task or serving the King.
- Be intentional about spending time with people who authentically love Jesus. It’s contagious!
- Fill your heart and mind with worship music that is Bible-based and is full of the name “Jesus”! :) Don’t just play it in the background.. be intentional about worshiping!
- Be quick to respond to Jesus’ Presence. Drop everything, if need be.