The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
I enjoyed hearing this from Maxie Dunnam twenty years ago during Chapel at Asbury Seminary. Maxie was the president of Asbury Seminary at the time. The idea that Maxie was conveying still rings true today. What is the idea Maxie was trying to convey? It is that listening to God is the main thing.
By our attending to God’s word, we are able to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. Yes, we are to love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our strength, and with all of our mind. Yes, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. These two loves inform how we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
We saw last week how the Samaritan demonstrated how to be a neighbor who loves his neighbor. This week we are looking at the other part of the command to love. We love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our strength, and with all of our mind. By doing so, we discover that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
A. Martha welcomed Jesus into her home (10:38-39)
1. Jesus was traveling, maybe to the villages where the 72 disciples had already been
2. It was highly unusual for a Jewish woman to welcome an unrelated Jewish man into her home
3. Being the host, Martha had to make sure her guest had food, drink, etc.
4. Mary lived with her sister (presumably)
5. Mary was not serving Jesus, she was acting like a disciple by sitting at his feet
6. What a scene we have here! Beyond the fact that an unrelated Jewish man is in Martha’s home, the sisters are doing two different actions. Martha is consumed by the duties of a host. Mary is consumed by what Jesus is saying. Somewhere in this scene we hope to find that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
B. Yet, Martha was distracted by her many tasks (10:40)
1. Tasks is the word δίάκονέω – to serve
a. Deacon – an ordained clergyperson called to serve the UMC through word, service, compassion, and justice
b. Deaconess – a lay person called to serve the UMC through a vocation of love, justice, and service
c. The 7 who were set apart in Acts 6 served the tables so the elders could serve the word of God
2. Martha is serving Jesus – doing what a host does
3. The societal norm of the woman doing the housework is evident in this scene
4. Mary won’t help me!
5. Though it is important to fulfill host duties. Martha was distracted by the tasks. How we Christians can become distracted by our tasks! I have heard that our Hispanic brothers and sisters have churches that have a bit different emphasis than we do. In order to be a follower of Jesus in some Hispanic churches, the Christian has to tithe. Tithing is a way of showing love for God with all of our heart. I have also heard about our Black sisters and brothers who require their church leaders to be part of a Bible Study so they can lead the church. Participating in a Bible Study is a way of showing love for God with all of your mind. The idea in the Hispanic and the Black churches is to remove distractions. For when we are distracted by our duties, we can miss out on the main thing.
C. Jesus corrects Martha and encourages us (10:41-42)
1. Jesus calls out Martha for being worried and distracted!
2. Jesus doesn’t tell her to stop doing her tasks, but he does encourage her to rethink what she is doing
3. What do we have if we do not love God?
a. How are we loving God with all of your heart and your soul?
b. How are we loving God with all of your strength and your mind?
4. Mary has chosen the better part
5. When we realize that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing, we realize the importance of sitting at the feet of Jesus. Oh, we still are to love our neighbors. But loving our neighbors is informed by what we hear from Jesus. For Jesus told the story of the Samaritan being the neighbor and he taught Mary. These were two things which weren’t done in those days. What Mary learned from Jesus wouldn’t be taken from her. What we learn from Jesus won’t be taken from us either!
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Learning at the feet of Jesus is the main thing. All of our other duties will get done, after we have sat at Jesus’ feet. Otherwise, our duties will distract us.
Are you a church leader who feels distracted by your duties? Isn’t it time to sit at Jesus’ feet and remember why you are doing what you are doing?
Are you working in the church so hard that you are complaining how other Christians aren’t helping you? Isn’t it time to sit at Jesus’ feet and remember why you are doing what you are doing?
I pray we can find people to encourage us to remember that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. For if we don’t sit at Jesus’ feet, we will be distracted.