Choosing what is better

Choosing what is better

Prioritizing is perhaps the greatest of all Western philosophies. We, who are privileged to live in the Western world, have thousands of choices each day, from coffee to clothing to traffic routes to planning our day’s activities. Not to mention the big ones: marriage, career, schools, location to live. Choices are the foundation of the American dream, and we worship them.

And they own us. We can’t stop ourselves from adding more choices to our lives every day. More apps, more restaurants, more hobbies. We have to take seminars on setting priorities and planning our schedules; we use sign-up genuises and automatic reminders because we all choose more than we can handle or remember. We see counselors and take regular vacations because we have too much stress and worry in our lives. And we put it there!

We are crazed. Enslaved. Anxious.

Jesus had three close friends in the town of Bethany. The CEO of the family was Martha. Efficient, organized, level-headed. She knew what had to be done, and she could do it. I love her.

But her choices caught her heart and threw her world into a little bit of misguided chaos. Notice the scene:

Luke 10:38-42

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary,who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I’m intrigued by the definitions of a few words. The word for “distracted” is perispaō, which means “to draw away; to be driven about mentally; to be encumbered, distracted with cares; distressed.” It’s not how we were designed to live, not even if we’re doing something for Jesus, which Martha certainly was. She was entertaining the whole town, for Pete’s sake. She was providing a favorable atmosphere so people would come and listen to Jesus. And yet her mind and emotions were in chaos.

She had overlooked the fact that she needed to hear Jesus. That what he was saying was intended for her. She had assumed that as Jesus’ closest friends, she and her sister Mary were only needed to provide opportunities for other people. They had heard him many times. They knew his message. They had believed on him.

There was no urgent need to sit and listen to him when so many other things had to be organized.

And yet Jesus said, “You are worried and upset about many things.” The word for “worried” is merimnaō, and it convicts me a little. It means “to be anxious; to seek to promote one’s own interests.” We don’t want to think we’re working ourselves to death because it makes us feel better about ourselves (even in our exhaustion), but it does. Jesus used this word many times, like when he told his disciples “to take no thought for tomorrow, what you will eat or what you will drink or what you will wear.” (Matt. 6:31) And the word for “upset” is thorybazō, meaning “bothered, disturbed, troubled, disquieted.” This is the only time the word is used in the entire New Testment. Jesus chose it specifically for Martha.

What upsets me? What disquiets my spirit? My variety of choices? My inability to choose the perfect choice? (How ironic.)

And while I work myself into mental anguish, Jesus sits, ready to teach me. Ready to carry my burdens. He offers the only thing that I can’t lose–the only thing that’s needed in my life. That’s time with Him.

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