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Summary: Choosing what is best is often counter-intuitive. Christians are responsible to choose what is best.

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“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he said. But Martha was distracted with all the preparations she had to make, so she came up to him and said, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work alone? Tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the best part; it will not be taken away from her.’” [1], [2]

A saying frequently heard among the faithful living in the southern United States asserts, “Good is enemy of the best.” It is a pointed way of saying that it is possible to settle for what is good while sacrificing what is best. Settling for what is good, though less than the best, means that we are willing to accept what is inferior. In our text, we have the account of Jesus arriving at a home where he was to be entertained. Two sisters lived in this home—one sister was eager to honour the Master through providing the expected hospitality; the other sister seized the opportunity afforded by Jesus’ presence to spend time listening to the Master. One of the sisters was commended for choosing what was best; the other was tacitly rebuked for choosing what was less important.

Charles Hummel penned a booklet that popularised a phrase that was known among Christians, though not used as often as it should have been. The title of the book in question was “Tyranny of the Urgent.” [3] The booklet addressed the common failure to prioritise needs in our lives. Our lives are invaded by urgent needs. Dinner is interrupted by the incessant ringing of the phone; we feel compelled to answer because it might be important. So, we set aside the important need for family time enjoying conversation and a meal to answer the urgent. We elevate the urgent over the important. Energy and vital resources are consumed by the urgent.

I contend that it is a feature of contemporary Christian life that we routinely choose the good at the expense of the best. We are doing undoubtedly doing “good” things, delivering “good” messages, living “good” lives; however, we are not choosing what is best. The message this evening is designed to challenge us to review the choices we make and the manner in which we conduct our lives in order to discover what is best and to encourage those who hear to do that which is best.

One of the dark sayings Jesus delivered to those who thought to follow Him is that cautioning against presuming that doing good things will suffice to merit His commendation. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” [MATTHEW 7:21-23]. How shocked many will be in that day! Indeed, Jesus says those appealing to their goodness will be many! Yet, they are deceived.

At Judgement, the Master warns that many people will appeal to their deeds and to their message—deeds that are undoubtedly “good” and a message that is “good”; despite these efforts, they will be cast away from the Son of God because they chose what was good rather than what was best. They defined what was acceptable in their own sight rather than accepting God’s definition of “good.” Consequently, they will be condemned because they did not accept God’s standard of righteousness. These lost people will fall under the censure that Paul pronounced: “Being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” [ROMANS 10:3, 4].

However, what about those who are born from above? How shall these individuals fare in the choices exercised in life? Because they follow the Master, do they not have responsibility to choose what is best, refusing to settle for what is merely good? How shall they stand before the scrutiny of the Reigning Son of God?

One passage of the Word that should give pause to any serious Follower of the Way is that found in 1 CORINTHIANS 3:10-15. “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

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