Choosing what is better

busyI think busyness is one of the greatest hindrances to authentic, life-on-life disciple-making in the church. Being busy is not inherently bad. In fact, I think God means for us to live busy, productive lives for His Kingdom and His glory. He expects us to fulfill our responsibilities and steward well the resources He has entrusted to our care. He intends for us to work hard in our jobs and careers and desires that we be busy caring for our families. I believe he even delights when we take time to enjoy the good gifts of life that have come from His Hand. But it’s really easy to cross the line  from eternally-focused-busy to worldly-focused-busy. Or from God’s-glory-motivated-busy to my-glory-motivated-busy. It’s  easy to be so busy doing what is good that we neglect what is better.

Jesus’s friend Martha from Bethany {the sister of Mary and Lazarus} got sucked into this very type of busyness. In Luke 10:38, we read that Jesus and His disciples visited Martha’s house. Martha was busy as a little bee trying to get supper on the table for her guests because, well, people have to eat and somebody has to prepare the food. While slaving away in the kitchen, Martha realizes that her sister Mary is just sitting at Jesus’s feet listening to Him teach. Martha approaches Jesus in somewhat of a tizzy: “Um, Jesus? Do you see me working like crazy in the kitchen to fix this meal for everyone while Mary is just sitting here with you?! Tell her to help me out!” And Jesus’s response to her is corrective yet oh so tender: “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, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Mary has chosen what is better. It’s not that Martha’s work wasn’t good or important. Physical nourishment is vital. But Jesus makes the point that the spiritual nourishment he provides for our souls is better. He even goes so far as to say that it’s really the only thing that’s truly necessary in life:

“Jesus said to them . . . ‘For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world . . . I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’ “

Jesus Himself is the Bread of Life that every broken human heart craves, but most people don’t even know it. Our world is starving for true sustenance, yet people are stuffing their faces with everything except that which truly fills. As Christians, we say we “know” that Jesus is the bread we need. We acknowledge that our King has commissioned us to spend our days feasting on this all-satisfying Bread and offering it freely and liberally to our hungry world. Yet, our lives often preach a different message. Our busy, hurry-scurry lives often tell the world that Jesus is the last thing we really need.

I live in this tension on a day-to-day basis. I’m such a Martha. I wake up in the morning with my mental to-do list clicking through my brain before I even get out of bed. I go, go, go, all day long, yet usually go to bed a bit frustrated that I couldn’t get it all done–frustrated that I don’t have all the little ducks of my kingdom perfectly in a row. My house is messy. The laundry is never finished. I never got a chance to exercise or visit that friend or write that blog post or return that email. And, often, the voice of God’s Spirit interrupts my busy hands and mental angst with whispers: “Be still. Rest in me Seek me. Listen to me. I am what you really need today, so slow down and choose what is better.” And my autonomy-craving flesh has the audacity to retort back, ” BUT I DON’T HAVE TIME!!”

And I’m not alone. For so many professing believers, life is full of good things: jobs, kids’ activities, sports, hobbies, TV, social media, dinner, laundry, house maintenance and even church. Yet, our priorities are too often not ordered around the mission we’ve been given to know God and make Him known. Intentional feasting on the Bread of Life and serving that bread up to those who are hungry around us through intentional relationships often gets our slightest time investment. How often does God get our leftovers at the end of a crazy day or nothing at all? How many days do we totally neglect the necessary food of God’s Word and communion with Him in prayer as if there are so many other things we need more. How many people occupy a pew space at church each Sunday yet are not invested in the true life of the church through service and disciple-making because there just isn’t time? How long will we let our fast-paced lives and our inflated to-do lists get in the way of truly living life with others and fostering loving relationships and transparent community? How many days will we choose what is good but neglect what is better?

Oh, Father! Lead us to true repentance and a reordering of our priorities and our days. Let feasting on You and feeding others become central within all the ordinary, everyday things you’ve called us to do. 

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” -Isaiah 55:1-2

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