Summary: All things urgent are not necessarily important. If we don't know what is important, everything will seem urgent.
We’re winding down our message series entitled Choices—only this week and one more week to go in the series. We’ve explored the choices of purpose or popularity, surrender or control, discipline or regret and next week, we’ll talk about the choice of life or death. But, today, we explore choosing between that which is important or that which is urgent. The choice we make will determine what dominates our time.
How many of you have overheard this conversation?
“Hey, how’s it going?”
“Going great, how about you?”
“Oh, you know how it is—busy, busy, busy.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. Just don’t have enough time to get everything done.”
“Right, just on the run all the time. Between work and kids and church and everything else, it’s just busy, busy, busy.”
“Hey? Good to see you. Maybe we’ll slow down one day and can catch up.”
“Yup. This busy is crazy.”
We’ve all heard that conversation, haven’t we? What’s more, we’ve likely all participated in that conversation. There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. If we just had more time. We’ve all said it. We’ve all hoped it would be so. Here’s what I’ve discovered, though. We all have time for what we choose to have time for. Let me say that again in case you didn’t catch it. We all have time for what we choose to have time for. Our struggle comes in distinguishing between that which is important and that which is urgent. If we don’t know the difference between the important and the urgent, we’ll never be able to choose that which is important. We will, by default, choose the urgent every time.
I know some of you are thinking: urgent things are important things. Sometimes, that’s correct. Situations and circumstances we face in our lives can be both urgent and important. The reality is that those urgent and important events are few and far between. Rather, our neglect of the important forces us into the urgent. Let me give a couple of examples.
When our car needs repairing, that’s an urgent matter, but when our car needs repairing because we didn’t get change the oil, we’ve been forced into the urgent because we neglected the important. Another example is when we get sick, our heath care becomes urgent all of the sudden. But, when we’re sick because we’re overworked, or we didn’t sleep well, or eat well, then we’ve neglected the important, so we’re forced to deal with the urgent.
Seth Godin is an author that writes leadership and business books. He speaks at conferences around the country helping leaders be better leaders. Godin says, “If you choose what is important you won't deal with as many things that are urgent.” I would take that statement a little further and say that if we don’t understand what is important, everything will become urgent. The urgent will dominate our time and will crowd out that which is truly important.
In our text this morning, we encountered two sisters involved in the same situation, but each made a different choice in that situation. I think we can learn something from their responses to help us in distinguishing between the important and the urgent. Mary and Martha were sisters to Lazarus (yes, the guy Jesus would raise from the dead), and they lived with Lazarus in the town of Bethany, not far out of Jerusalem.
It is not unlikely at all that Jesus was at their home more than once. He could have been a regular house guest. That fact notwithstanding, word comes that Jesus and his disciples are on their way. Martha gets frantic. The house is a mess. There’s nothing to eat. What are we going to feed them? I totally understand Martha’s concern. It’s a legitimate concern. She wanted to be a gracious host. After all, hospitality in the ancient near east was a big thing. One of the worst things you could be in Jewish culture was inhospitable. Factor in that Jesus may have had an entourage of 15-20 people tagging along. What happens around your house when 15-20 people show up unexpectedly? The situation quickly becomes very urgent. We all get it!
I don’t want to throw my wife under the bus, but I kind of live with a Martha. I’ll come home and tell her, “I’ve invited so and so over tonight,” and she’ll pretty much drop what she’s doing and start cleaning up and picking up, and wondering what snacks we might have to offer whoever it is. I would never say that’s a bad thing. It’s an important task…as was Martha’s. Martha’s problem, as Luke records it, is that she was “distracted” by the task in front of her. She was so distracted by the task that she failed to note the importance of just enjoying the relationship. Her service took precedence over the Savior. Here’s a lesson for all of us: the urgent will always distract us from the important.