I mentioned this before, but the more I think about it, the more I like Aristotle’s way of looking at things. For those unfamiliar with him, he was a major Greek philosopher. His main paradigm was the “Golden Mean.” This means that you should find the proper balance between extremes.
Of course, the main reason I like this philosophy is because it fits in well with how Scripture says we’re supposed to approach life. Like Solomon said, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. . .” There’s a time to step out and speak boldly, and there’s a time to be silent. There’s a time to weep and a time to laugh. There’s a time to mourn and a time to dance. Every (legitimate) activity has its appropriate setting.
I think that’s the main lesson for today, with a slight caveat. What Aristotle missed (as near as I can tell) was the concept of priorities. Yes, there’s a time for everything, but not everything is equally important. There are times in which we need to push aside X because Y is so much more necessary.
That brings us to today’s passage. We’ve seen this family before, since Lazarus and his sisters play such a huge role in John chapter 11 (here if you don’t know it). Lazarus’s resurrection is probably the most spectacular miracle outside of Jesus’ own rising from the dead. But most of the time they were just a wonderful family with whom Jesus could hang out. As a bonus, they lived close by Jerusalem, which made it convenient to stay with them on his visits there.
On one of his frequent visits, he and his followers stayed for a meal. Do you know anyone like Martha? My wife has some of Martha’s spirit in her, and that’s nothing but a compliment. If guests are coming over, then there are things that need to be done. The food has to be prepared and served. Spots have to be reserved for everyone. And of course there’s the cleaning! What woman hasn’t worried about the cleanliness of her home when guests arrive?
Again, this is not a problem in itself. Some people are natural servants, and in this respect they imitate our Master better than the rest of us who have to be prodded to do anything. I’m not just referring to a home: In every church there are “Marthas” who do about 80% of the menial service. People rarely think about them until something happens to them and the service stops. Then they’re sorely missed when the coffeepot isn’t washed or the chairs aren’t put out or the AC isn’t turned on before the worship service. Someday when we stand before our Lord and the books are opened and everything is laid bare, these people will finally get the recognition they should've gotten on earth, and the applause will be done by nail-scarred hands. Quite frankly, I need to be bit more like them than I presently am.
But here’s where the point about priorities kicks in. Here’s the lesson I get from her sister Mary: When Jesus is talking, it’s time to sit down, be quiet, and listen. There are people who are so busy doing that they neglect listening to the Savior. That’s what I mean by the third paragraph. Yes, practical service is really important, but spending time alone with the Lord (at least daily), as Jesus himself said here, is “better.” Yes, it needs to be a higher priority than doing, even doing things for him.
If this isn’t your tendency, if you’re like me and actually have to be prodded to do the menial tasks, then this really isn’t meant for you. But if you listen very closely and hear the Master saying “We need to talk for a few minutes,” then you know what you need to do, don’t you?
Lord Jesus, all of us probably need to listen to you more and talk less. Whatever’s distracting us, please push it aside. Whatever it takes.
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