Martha may have looked efficient as she labored in the kitchen to prepare a meal for Jesus. She tried nailing her sister for sitting down on the job. Jesus said to her, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better…” (Luke 10:41,42). This scenario teaches us some truths about saving time:
Worry kills time. Anxiety is the clue that we’re playing God and doing something that might not be in our job description. Martha should have backed off and asked a question, “Why am I doing this now?” The “why” question helps us save time: Why am I going to this meeting? Why am I writing this letter? Am I doing something that someone else should be doing? Am I doing something that should NOT be done? Is this my responsibility? Should I be doing it now? Martha probably had the job right, but her timing was off. Meanwhile, Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” (39). We see Martha on a later occasion in the kitchen, and she is peaceful and right on schedule (John 12:2) So is Mary, anointing Jesus.
Distractions eat time. Luke writes that “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” (40). The word “distracted” literally means to be pulled in different directions. Distractions keep us from focusing on what is needful at the moment. Mary locked into the “one thing needful,” while Martha was pulled this way and that. God-given goals keep us from secondary priorities. We must say “no” to people’s expectations that keep us from our highest priority. Martha was no doubt operating with cultural expectations and firstborn mandates. Mary’s devotion exceeded all other expectations and put her in the right place at the right time. Martha needed focus. Are any demands pulling you in wrong directions or at the wrong time?
Mary did three things, all of which kept her on track with right priorities and saved her time.
She “sat at the Lord’s feet.” People with a strong work ethic may question the value of sitting before serving, but in sitting we find out when and where we need to be serving. I have learned to ask the Holy Spirit simple yes-and-no questions, and it saves me a lot of time: Should I go get the tires? No. Is this a good time to talk with Don? Yes. Wish I had learned this as a young pastor.
She was “listening to what he said.” Those who don’t take time to listen will make wrong decisions, will sometimes overbook their schedule, and will not live on purpose. They will also fall prey to the expectations that others place upon them. Mary and Martha were listening to two different voices–and one was right.
She chose what is better. Saving time has everything to do with making good decisions. Saying “yes” also means saying “no.” One cancels the other. People who say too many yeses live frustrated lives. Their own goals are overshadowed by the desires or demands of others. Thank God for hardworking Marthas who get the job done.And thank God for Marthas who have learned from Marys that their job goes much better when they have taken their cue from Jesus!