Jesus Cautions Us
About Our Choices
Luke 10:38-42

Dr. William S. Epps, Senior Pastor

Sunday, July 17, 2022
38“Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”
41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
This incident, which only Luke records, adds the other truth to the parable of the Good Samaritan. They are both examples of the Law in Deuteronomy and Leviticus (Luke 10:27). The Good Samaritan story shows that a person needs to ‘love your neighbor as you love yourself’. Mary’s choice shows that to love God comes first.
When Jesus comes to Bethany, Martha demonstrates hospitality by welcoming Jesus into the home she shares with her sister Mary. She then busies herself with the tasks of serving their guest (diakonian). Although we are not told precisely what those tasks are, a good guess is that she began preparing a meal. Meanwhile her sister Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to His words. Rather than assuming the role expected of women in her culture, she takes her place at the feet of Jesus. She assumes the posture of a student learning at the feet of a rabbi, a role traditionally reserved for men.
This brief story contains an intriguing and insightful incident. Here is an all too familiar scene of life situated in a small portion of scripture. Jesus is welcomed into the home of friends as He visits a certain city. It is the home of Martha and Mary. They are sisters. They received Jesus with open arms. However, Martha begins to prepare for her guest by engaging in many tasks while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to what He is saying. Martha gets peeved with Mary. She blurts out a question, “Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?” Before the question is answered Martha says to Jesus, “Tell her to help me.”   
Consider what it means to be responsible for the choices you make. 
Monday, July 18, 2022
Here we find a picture of contrasts. One person is busy, moving about consumed with much activity. The other is quiet, sitting still, listening to what is being said. There is nothing wrong with this picture. That is the way life is made up. Some people are energetic and need to be doing something. Some people are quiet and need to sit still. Carl Jung, in analyzing human behavior, has determined that people have a preferred way of facing and handling reality. 
In this little story about two women, both of whom loved Jesus, Jesus says that all our efforts and deeds are to be nourished by times of doing absolutely nothing but sitting and being with God.  Is it really okay to just "sit and be with God"? If that was a shocking thing for Jesus to say to a woman trying to meet the expectations her society had set for her, along with the counter-cultural notion that a woman could sit with the male disciples at the feet of the master and learn from him, can we imagine how disconcerting such an idea is for us, in our culture today? Our world seems to equate busyness with importance or even value; a long to-do list, especially when it's completed, gives us a sense of satisfaction and even security…at least, until we start on a new list of tasks to address.
For many, the days are packed, one after another, with many things, and minds full and overflowing, worried and distracted, like Martha, by many things. But Henri Nouwen once wrote that our lives, while full, are often unfulfilled. "Our occupations and preoccupations," he said, "fill our external and internal lives to the brim. They prevent the Spirit of God from breathing freely in us and thus renewing our lives."  
Can you imagine what life would be like, without the things that keep us busy? Can you imagine time - without any distractions, any to-do lists - for our internal lives, hours spent tending our relationship with God, listening to the quiet voice of God, deep within our hearts?  We do so much talking in our churches, but we can't hear God's voice if we don't stop, regularly, and just sit and listen, like Mary at the feet of Jesus. How can the still-speaking God get a word in edgewise over the beepers, cell phones, voicemail, text messages and tweets, television and radio messages that bombard us? How can we tend to our internal lives like careful gardeners who spend time nurturing new growth, pulling weeds when necessary, and gently showering the thirsty green plants with refreshing water? (Kathryn Matthews)
Consider what it means to be silent listening to the Lord share with you.  
Tuesday, July 19, 2022
People are defined by the choices they make and the consequences of those choices. In fact, the Bible is a book about people like us whose choices determined their future. Whenever the Bible talks about people and their choices, there are the negative consequences of their poor choices as well as the positive consequences of their wise choices. The “family portrait” of God’s family, which the Bible presents, shows the bad as well as the good and makes it clear that God gives us freedom to choose – but we have to live with the consequences of those choices. 

There is a constant spiritual warfare being waged. Ephesians 6:12 (KJV):
12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is
Evil – it is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good – it is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
What do you feed? Do you feed your assurances or your adversities? Beliefs or your bewilderments? Courage or your consternation? Deliverances or your difficulties? Faith or your frustration? Grace or our guilt? Mercy or your mistakes? Solace or your sorrow? Salvation or your sinfulness? Triumph or troubles?  Just remember what you feed will win.

Consider what it means that you feed what wins the battle between
good and evil, right and wrong, falsehood and truth, life or death.  
Wednesday, July 20, 2022
Firstly, Jesus cautions about being consumed by activity that produces worry and is distractive
It would be interesting if you could chronicle your activity and see how much of it produces worry and distraction. Howard Thurman, in his book of meditations entitled, “The Inward Journey,” cites a reality that captures being consumed by activity:

“We are surrounded by natural activity. The daily round is made up of such activities. There is the simple business of preparing for the day; waking up, dressing, getting breakfast and doing all the things incidental to getting at the day’s demands. For each new day there are a myriad of things that are carried over
from the preceding day. Then there are the regularly scheduled activities that
belong to a specific day. There are Monday things, Tuesday things, Wednesday things, Thursday things, and so on for each succeeding day through the week. Additionally, there are those natural activities that fall within the category
of the casual, the inconsequential. They may be regarded as fooling around,
doing nothing, a form of social doodling.” 

When you consider the activity that consumes your energy in what category does it fit? Is it natural activity, unfinished activity, regularly scheduled activity or casual activity? Does your activity produce worry and distraction? Does your activity consume you to the point that you get anxious, frustrated, irritable and jealous? Jesus is speaking to you saying, you are worried and distracted by many things. 
This pleasant story takes a sharp turn when Martha, distracted by her many tasks, comes to Jesus and asks, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me” (10:40). Many who read or hear this story may cheer for Mary in her inversion of traditional roles. Many may also empathize with Martha’s resentment of her sister for leaving her to do all the work. Jesus’ response to Martha seems less than empathetic, chiding her for her distraction and worry, and praising Mary: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.* Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (10:41-42).
The problem with Martha is not that she is busy serving and providing hospitality. Certainly Jesus commends this kind of service to the neighbor many times, notably in the parable of the Good Samaritan that immediately precedes the story of Mary and Martha. The problem with Martha is not her serving, but rather that she is worried and distracted. The word translated “distractedin verse 40periespato, has the connotation of being pulled or dragged in different directionsMartha’s distraction and worry leave no room for the most important aspect of hospitality - gracious attention to the guest. In fact, she breaks all the rules of hospitality by trying to embarrass her sister in front of her guest, and by asking her guest to intervene in a family dispute. She even goes so far as to accuse Jesus of not caring about her (Lord, do you not care…?).
Martha’s worry and distraction prevent her from being truly present with Jesus, and cause her to drive a wedge between her sister and herself, and between Jesus and herself. She has missed out on the “one thing needed” for true hospitality. There is no greater hospitality than listening to your guest. How much more so when the guest is Jesus! So Jesus says that Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.
Jesus’ words to Martha may be seen as an invitation rather than a rebuke. Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. The one thing needed is for Martha to receive the gracious presence of Jesus, to listen to his words, to know that she is valued not for what she does or how well she does it, but for who she is as a child of God.
Consider what it means to be consumed by activity that produces
worry and distraction pulling you in different directions and making you feel unappreciated. And throughout it all wanting the
Lord to tell someone else to help you.
Thursday, July 21, 2022
Secondly, Jesus narrows the focus of our activity to what is needful.  
Notice how appropriate this advice is for the situation. The one needful thing when a guest visits is to enjoy their company. Everything else is secondary. We permit our sense of self to get in the way and cause us needless worry. We become distracted by what we think we have to doIn doing so we create anxiety that frustrates us needlesslyFrustration leads to irritationIrritation leads to worryWorry leads to being upset. Now all of that energy has to be directed somewhere. Unfortunately, we direct those pent up emotions at the guest about how inconsiderate this situation seems to be. In our distress we blurt out, do you care what I am doing? Ah! There it is. We do want to know that what we are doing matters. 
While what you are doing matters, there is only one thing that is needful. All of our energies must not be consumed in merely getting through the day or the week. In living our lives from day to day we must be geared to goals and purposes that inform the character of our activities. When your activity informs your understanding of your life instead of your life informing the nature of your activity, then it is time to focus on what is necessary. Life must be structured by what we are trying to accomplish with our lives. You make choices based on what you want the outcome to be. 
In a culture of hectic schedules and the relentless pursuit of productivity, we are tempted to measure our worth by how busy we are, by how much we accomplish, or by how well we meet the expectations of others.
Feeling pulled in different directions, feeling worried and distracted by many things -- these seem to be common threads of life in the world in which we live. And yet, as Jesus says in Luke 12:25, “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?" We know that worrying does no good, and that much of what we worry about is not so important in the larger scheme of things, and yet we cannot seem to quell our anxious thoughts and frantic activity.
It is true that much of our busyness and distraction can stem from the noblest of intentions. We want to provide for our families, we want to give our children every opportunity to enrich their lives, we want to serve our neighbors, and yes, we want to serve the Lord. Indeed, where would the church be without its “Marthas,” those faithful folk who perform the tasks of hospitality and service so vital to making the church a welcoming and well-functioning community?
And yet if all our activities leave us with no time to be still in the Lord’s presence and hear God’s word, we are likely to end up anxious and troubled. We are likely to end up with a kind of service that is devoid of love and joy and is resentful of others.
Both listening and doing, receiving God’s Word and serving others, are vital to the Christian life, just as inhaling and exhaling are to breathing. Yet how often do we forget to breathe in deeply? Trying to serve without being nourished by God’s word is like expecting good fruit to grow from a tree that has been uprooted.
We do know that Jesus invites all of us who are worried and distracted by many things, to sit and rest in His presence, to hear His words of grace and truth, to know that we are loved and valued as children of God, to be renewed in faith and strengthened for service. There is need of only one thing: attention to our guest. As it turns out, our guest is also our host, with abundant gifts to give.
Consider what it means when your activity informs your understanding of your life instead of your life informing the nature of your activity.
Friday, July 22, 2022
Thirdly, Jesus commends the choice of the better part that will not be taken away.  
You see Martha was attempting to make herself look good at the expense of making Mary look not so good. Oh, that is a no, no with Jesus. She attempted to engage the Lord in her maneuver to discredit the choice that Mary made and lead Him to honoring the choice she had made. The Lord will not be fooled by our petty schemes based on our emotional insecurities. The Lord does not have to dishonor one choice in order to validate another. The Lord recognized both for what they are and sanctions even the one that we would like Him to dismiss. 
Jesus would not permit Martha to steal from Mary what she sought for herself. No. It is a shame that we would take from others the very thing we want to receive ourselves. That is jealousy at its worst. 
It is assuring to know that Jesus does not permit anyone to steal the joy of the better part that you have chosen. No, Jesus commends the choice without any hesitation or reservation at all. This lets me know that the Lord recognizes diversity of contributions. Everyone does not assume the same role nor do they all respond in the same way, but they do contribute such as they can with what they have.
Consider what the better part is for activity involvement according to Jesus. 
Saturday, July 23, 2022
I am pressing on the upward way, new heights I’m gaining every day,
still praying as I onward bound, Lord plant my feet on higher ground. 
Lord lift me up and let me stand, by faith on Heaven's tableland,
a higher plane than I have found; Lord plant my feet on higher ground.
My heart has no desire to stay / Where doubts arise and fears dismay
Though some may dwell where those abound / my prayer, my aim is higher ground.
I want to live above the world / Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled
For faith has caught the joyful sound / The song of saints on higher ground
I want to scale the utmost height / And catch a gleam of glory bright
But still I’ll pray till heaven I’ve found / Lord plant my feet on higher ground. 
Consider what it means that Jesus cautions us about a choice that neglects the better part which keeps us worried and distracted, pulled and dragged
in different directions annoyed at others and the Lord. 
I'm Pressing On the Upward Way (Higher Ground)
traditional hymn
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