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Choosing the Better Part: Stillness Before Service (Luke 10:38-42)

Luke 10:38–42 - 38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” What does today’s passage say? In today’s passage, Jesus entered a village and was welcomed into Martha’s home (v. 38).  Her sister Mary seated herself at the Lord's feet and listened to Him (v. 39). But Martha got frustrated because she felt she was doing all the work while her sister just sat there.  She appealed to Jesus to correct her sister (v. 40). The Lord gently responded that while Martha was worried and upset over many things, only one thing was really important, and Mary had chosen what was better by undivided time with Him (vv. 41-42). Jesus affirmed that what Mary gained by sinking roots deeply into His presence and truth would not be taken from her (v. 42). How can I apply Luke 10:38-42 to my life? Life gets overwhelmed with so many urgent things that demand our time and attention. In the story of Mary and Martha, Jesus gives us timely wisdom for prioritizing. Martha was distracted and irritated by her attempts to meet pressing needs for hospitality. Her sister Mary chose to sit attentively at Jesus’ feet, fully focused on His teachings. Even necessary service should not crowd out stillness with Christ. Many of us easily relate with Martha. Especially when demands intensify, we slip into self-reliant striving instead of first nourishing intimacy with Jesus through Word and prayer. But Christ calls us to receive strength, perspective, and purpose from Him before launching into work. Here are some basic principles from this passage that we should apply to our lives:

  1. Make the Lord a Priority in Life’s Chaos (v. 39): Life gets chaotic with so many things demanding our time and attention. Jesus highlighted how Mary chose wisely when she sat attentively at His feet amid pressing needs awaiting her help. We show Jesus is our First Love by setting aside regular quiet time with Him—listening to God in Scripture, journaling, praying, and praising. These daily pauses for spiritual nourishment realign our heart with Jesus above all the hustle and bustle. Without consistent stillness before God, serving becomes a burdensome chore done in our own feeble power. We start depending on our own striving instead of operating with Christ’s strength and joy. Staying connected to Jesus must take first place on our priority list. Determine specific slots of unrushed stillness you will devote to Biblical community, worship and prayer this week (Psalm 62:1; Luke 5:16; John 6:27).

Food for thought: What adjustments this week would help you create needed space for spiritual attentiveness amid life’s demands? What specific slots of unrushed stillness can you devote to Biblical community, worship, and prayer this week?

  1. Service is Important, but Not at the Expense of Spiritual Health (v. 40): Both sitting with Jesus and serving are valuable—but should be properly balanced. Martha’s frustrated busyness shows misplaced priorities. She majored in minor things while missing the blessing of seated attention at Christ’s feet. Serving is important but it should be fueled by the desire for God’s glory and rooted in the blessings of Scripture. If activity supersedes time with Jesus, we will end up burnt out because we can never “do enough.” The quality of knowing Jesus should define productivity, not lengthy checklists. Draw near to Him through the Word and prayer before diving into ministry responsibilities. Make these soul-nourishing rhythms your new normal every day. Say no to extra demands that would edge out time of deeper connection with Christ. Refuse busyness that breeds spiritual numbness. Instead, serve out of an overflow of a vibrant relationship with Jesus (Psalm 46:10; Matthew 6:33, 1 Corinthians 15:10).

Food for thought: What boundaries will you implement to prevent excessive activity from crowding out stillness with Jesus? What steps will you take to nourish spiritual vitality so service flows from intimacy with Christ rather than self-effort?

  1. Choose the Eternal over the Temporary (vv. 41-42): Jesus gently corrected Martha because she had the wrong focus. She was distracted and upset by many tasks. Meanwhile, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening with her full attention. Though Martha was serving Jesus, He said Mary had chosen what mattered most—spending time with the Lord. Many good things can keep us excessively busy, worried, and distracted from what’s most important. In the busyness of life, listening intently to Jesus’ words must remain supreme. He wants us to take a break, let Him be the Lord of our lives, and allow Him to direct our hearts. We show that Jesus satisfies our soul above all when we prioritize knowing Him in Scripture before hustling to check off to-do lists and maintain busy schedules. Ask God if you need to lay some things down in order to sit longer at Jesus’ feet. Our mission must flow from abiding in God’s empowering presence as our primary priority. Listen carefully to discern what is temporal versus eternal in how your days unfold (Matthew 6:19-21, 33; Luke 9:23-25; Luke 14:15-24).

Food for thought: What may you need to say no or no longer to in order to devote greater time to soaking in God’s Word? What might sitting longer at Jesus' feet look like this week? In our productivity-obsessed society filled with loneliness and burnout, Jesus’ gentle correction of Martha speaks powerfully. Rather than letting faith be consumed by our self-driven push to accomplish things, Christ reminds us that His Kingdom functions differently. It operates by receiving all from God as we trust Him wholeheartedly. As we yield control to embrace Jesus’ leadership over pace and priorities, we gain holistic health and serving that has lasting spiritual vibrancy. Ask God to realign your rhythms and activities around patterns that nurture attentive communion with Christ rather than ego-feeding busyness. Determine with His grace to pursue the blessing of lingering at Jesus’ feet above every fleeting demand seeking to dominate your devotion. Prayer Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that You would help me to choose stillness with You over constant busy work. When many good things compete for my time, give me grace to first sit at Jesus’ feet to receive truth and renewal from Your Word. I pray that Your Spirit would adjust my schedule and habits so intimate communion with Christ stays my supreme priority amid life's demands. Guard my heart against distraction and self-reliance so I serve out of the strength that comes through resting in Your love. I pray these things in the most precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Luke 10:42 – “but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” With His Blessings, Pastor Corby

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