Summary: Are you too busy? What does God tell us about over commitment in Christian service?
Last week we began a series of lessons on commitment, with the question: Where is your commitment?
We ended that lesson looking at some of Jesus’s words from the sermon on the mount where Jesus tells us what to commit to and what not to commit to, what not to worry about and what to seek above all else. Jesus’s teachings on the subject of commitment are filled with power and promises. He does not mince words. He says plainly, store up treasures in heaven where things last, not on earth where they don’t, and keep your focus on that which is light, not darkness. He tells us that no one can serve two masters… applying it this way: you can’t serve both God and money. Finally, we heard Jesus’s command and promise: seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the things you need will be added to you.
As we continue with this study on commitment, today let’s look at some things God tells us about over commitment.
Again, let’s consider three illustrations:
First: King Solomon. God gave Solomon wisdom and wealth and fame. But Solomon did something that became his downfall. He married 700 wives and had 300 concubines. I’d call that a serious case of over commitment, wouldn’t you? 1 Kings 11:1-6. In Ecclesiastes 7:26-29 he gives us this piece from his experience.
Second: The third soil in the Parable of the Sower. Luke’s gospel chapter 8:14 explains what the seed sown in the thorny ground means. “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures, and they do not mature.”
These people are committed to too much! They can’t let go of the things of this world, but don’t want to let go of the things of heaven either. Theirs is the case of trying to serve two masters. 1 John 2:15-17 warns us: love not the world, nor the things of this world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. It is over commitment. Again, echoing Jesus words, “No one can serve two masters… you can not serve both God and money” That’s over commitment.
Third: Israel. When God delivered the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and led them into the desert He brought them to Mount Sinai and gave them the covenant of the 10 commandments. What is the very first commandment? You shall have NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME. Don’t misunderstand that word “before” it doesn’t mean put the Lord God first and serve other gods after Him, it means NO OTHER GODS at all. What was Israel’s response to this commandment? Idolatry ruined them as a nation for generations. Commitment to more than one God is over commitment.
Over commitment causes us to do less, not more good for the kingdom of God. It can work in subtle ways as well as more obvious ones. Let’s look at one of the more subtle ways we can fall into over commitment.
Luke records an event in Jesus’ ministry where Martha invited Jesus and his disciples over for dinner. That’s 13 men. That’s quite a commitment for dinner, wouldn’t you say? Go with me to Luke 10:38-42 for this story. Keep your thumb there and also go to John 11.
We’ll look at this and see what we can learn a nuanced lesson about commitment and over commitment in it.
Martha is a faithful follower of Jesus. She is the sister of Mary and Lazarus. We meet this family a few times in the scriptures and it is obvious that Jesus was close to them. We don’t know how they met or just how their relationship grew, but a good guess is that Martha had a lot to do with it. Most notable about their relationship is the event we find only in John’s gospel, chapter 11, where Lazarus becomes sick and the sisters send a message to Jesus, hoping for him to come and heal their brother. Jesus delays going until Lazarus is already dead. Then when he does go to see them, by the time he arrives, Lazarus has been buried for four days. Martha hears that Jesus has come and she runs out to greet Jesus and tearfully says to him, Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. Then she goes further and reveals her faith saying, even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask. Turn to John 11:23 to pick up this story. (Read John 11:23-44)
Now, that event happened sometime after the event in Luke 10:38. Go back there now and let’s look at that.
(Read Luke 10:38-42)
In this story, Jesus mildly rebukes Martha, doesn’t he? In fact, Jesus speaks freely with Martha in both this event and the one in John 11. Martha seems to have a strong personality. She’s the one who invited Jesus and his disciples in for dinner. She’s the first one out to see him when he comes at Lazarus’s death, and she’s the one who speaks her mind to even Jesus at this first dinner.