Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Busy Excuse

If I had to choose the one Bible story that resonates most with me it would have to be the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42. Martha is the dutiful older sister, hurriedly trying to make the preparations necessary to have Jesus in her home. I imagine she was cooking, cleaning, setting the table, etc, all while her younger sister, Mary, sat at the feet of Jesus, refusing to give her a hand.

I am Martha in the story. I am a busy-body. I am always doing something. And when I'm not, I'm probably thinking about what needs to be done. And like Martha, there have certainly been times in my life when I have 'rebuked' the Marys of the world -- wondering how they can just sit there watching while I (and the other Marthas) do all the work.

We live in a society that elevates the Marthas of the world. A world that ascribes value to busyness in all its forms and which measures our worth based upon it. The busier you are, the more important you are, or so it would seem. Those of us who are the Marthas of this world often think that we need to be doing everything. In our homes, workplaces, communities, the world. We may be bent on making a difference in every possible way, and thus, consider our busyness synonymous with our service to God.

However, what if we've only convinced ourselves of this? What if, in fact, our busyness is nothing but an attempt to keep ourselves from the feet of God? To avoid going into His presence? What if we create more and more work for ourselves because we don't know how to be still, we don't know how to listen, and we are afraid to try? What if we only theoretically believe that our value as people comes to us from what Christ has done for us, and instead practice a way of life that makes it dependent on all that we are able to accomplish?

My pastor has a quote which he often shares that goes a little something like this.
A man with an excuse to God will never have an experience of God."

What if Martha's busyness was an excuse? What if her to-do list was nothing more than an attempt to stay out of Jesus' presence? What if all of her noble attempts at "service" were merely evasion tactics? What if I am guilty of the same?

When Martha rebukes her sister, she is actually rebuking Jesus and His values. She says, in essence, "Hello! Jesus! Aren't you paying attention? Don't you see how I'm working my butt of while my lazy sister is just sitting here? Why don't you tell her to get up and do something?!"

But Jesus responds with an answer that reveals to Martha the condition of her own heart. “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."

What happens when all that you have to "do" is taken from you? What happens when all of your accomplishments or your ability to accomplish things slip away? What then? Who will you be and where will your value come from?

Mary knew how to rest in the Lord. She knew how to draw all of her peace, joy, strength and worth from being still in His presence. She did not need a long to-do list or a string of tasks completed to feel accomplished. She did not have an excuse to God, and therefore, she had an experience of Him.

Marthas of the world, let's take note. And by God's grace, let's sit down and choose what is better. Let's rest at the feet of the One whose love and grace cannot be taken away from us.

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