July 9, 2008
Keeping the Best Things First
by Katherine Peters, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor
How often do we resign ourselves to the “tyranny of the urgent”? If you’re me, it’s a daily struggle not to use that little phrase as an excuse for losing sight of the big picture. It’s so much easier to take care of what’s immediately in front of me instead of what should be first in my life.
I’m a task-oriented Martha, so concerned with getting the job done that I forget to focus on Him first. I can tell myself that I’m doing my work “as unto the Lord” as much as I want, but I don’t serve anyone when I get harried. You probably know the feeling; you tell yourself that you’re cooking a wholesome dinner as a supreme act of service and love for your family – if they only appreciated how many other things you have to do besides stand over a stove! – when little Anne asks if you’ll help her find a favorite CD. Something boils over, and it’s not the pot on the stove. In taking care of dinner, you’ve forgotten to feed a godly attitude of patience and love.
That’s me to a fault. James makes it clear that faith is constantly looking for ways to serve; like Martha, however, we can get so busy that we forget why we’re doing it. I often catch myself thinking that if I’m not busy, I’m not “doing enough” for God. But then the act becomes its own end, instead of an outworking of love. Imagine Martha in the kitchen, fluttering around and looking for that special recipe to serve Jesus, while Mary just sat, soaking up His words. Martha’s response to this was probably well-intentioned – that is, from a human point of view. She was serving and wanted others to serve with her! But Jesus called her bluff. “Only one thing is needed,” Christ said, “and Mary has chosen what is better” (Luke 10:42). Better? Lord, you mean that sitting at your feet and being quiet is better than my idea of being busy serving you? That’s right.
I think I got a double-portion of Martha’s spirit. Too often, I think that sitting and listening to Jesus is the same thing as sitting and doing nothing. I think it’s laziness. Satan whispers that my time could be better spent doing than learning, and then the tyranny of the urgent takes over. But even Olympic acts of service are as nothing if not done in love (1 Corinthians 13), and only time at the feet of Jesus can teach me that.
Love leads to action, as Paul writes to the Philippian church, not the other way around. I can’t “discern what is best” in my work and words unless I keep the very best in front of my eyes, like Mary. My prayer this week is that I will focus on Jesus and see how to love. Then the priorities will fall in line. Then I see what is best, because I see Jesus.
Intersecting Faith & Life: We have to preach the Gospel to ourselves daily, as Jerry Bridges writes, so we never lose sight of what is first and last in importance. Reevaluate your commitments and make sure that you’ve set aside time to sit at the feet of Jesus before anything else.