Summary: When we battle distractions in our life, we must position our focus on Christ who also takes all our worries and troubles. Let us bring ourselves to Him.
Opening illustration: Every day I drive the same highway to and from the office, and every day I see an alarming number of distracted drivers. Usually they’re talking on the phone or texting, but I have also seen people reading the newspaper, putting on makeup, and eating a bowl of cereal while trying to maneuver a car at 70+ miles per hour! In some circumstances, distractions are fleeting and harmless. In a moving vehicle, they can kill.
Sometimes distractions can be a problem in our relationship with God. In fact, that was the concern Jesus had for His friend Martha. She “was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” for a meal (Luke 10:40 NIV). When she complained about her sister Mary’s lack of help (apparently due to her devotion to Christ and His teaching), Jesus told her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (vv.41-42).
Martha’s distractions were well-intentioned. But she was missing the opportunity to listen to Jesus and enjoy His presence. He is deserving of our deepest devotion, and He alone can fully enable us to overcome any of life’s distractions. (ODB, Bill Crowder)
Introduction: The story of Jesus' visit to the home of Martha follows on immediately from the parable of the Good Samaritan. Martha’s distractions in Luke 10 brought a loving challenge from Jesus. But after the death of her brother Lazarus (John 11:17-27), we see that she was fully focused on Him. She affirmed her confidence that Jesus had a special relationship with the Father (v.22) and then declared her belief in the coming resurrection (v.24). Ultimately, she voiced her clear conviction that Jesus is the Son of God (v.27). Eternal life is not gained in the doing, but in the receiving - in hearing and believing. Mary had found it.
How to battle distractions?
1. Desiring others to participate in your distraction (vs. 38-40)
The problem with Martha is not that she is busy serving and providing hospitality. Certainly Jesus commends this kind of service to the neighbor many times, notably in the parable of the Good Samaritan that immediately precedes the story of Mary and Martha. The problem with Martha is not her serving, but rather that she is worried and distracted. The word translated “distracted” in verse 40, periespato, has the connotation of being pulled or dragged in different directions.
Martha’s distraction and worry leave no room for the most important aspect of hospitality -- gracious attention to the guest. In fact, she breaks all the rules of hospitality by trying to embarrass her sister in front of her guest, and by asking her guest to intervene in a family dispute. She even goes so far as to accuse Jesus of not caring about her (Lord, do you not care…?).
Martha’s worry and distraction prevent her from being truly present with Jesus, and cause her to drive a wedge between her sister and herself, and between Jesus and herself. She has missed out on the “one thing needed” for true hospitality. There is no greater hospitality than listening to your guest. How much more so when the guest is Jesus! So Jesus says that Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.
Jesus’ words to Martha may be seen as an invitation rather than a rebuke. Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. The one thing needed is for Martha to receive the gracious presence of Jesus, to listen to his words, to know that she is valued not for what she does or how well she does it, but for who she is as a child of God.
In a culture of hectic schedules and the relentless pursuit of productivity, we are tempted to measure our worth by how busy we are, by how much we accomplish, or by how well we meet the expectations of others. Preaching on this text may provide a rich opportunity to address this cultural malaise.
Many people in our congregations likely identify with Martha. Feeling pulled in different directions, feeling worried and distracted by many things -- these seem to be common threads of life in our fast-paced world. And yet, as Jesus says in Luke 12:25, “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?" We know that worrying does no good, and that much of what we worry about is not so important in the larger scheme of things, and yet we cannot seem to quell our anxious thoughts and frantic activity.
It is true that much of our busyness and distraction stems from the noblest of intentions. We want to provide for our families, we want to give our children every opportunity to enrich their lives, we want to serve our neighbors, and yes, we want to serve the Lord. Indeed, where would the church be without its “Marathas,” those faithful folk who perform the tasks of hospitality and service so vital to making the church a welcoming and well-functioning community?