“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
“Kingdom work” is a term I use to describe things that are inconvenient, but important to do in order to love someone well. Sometimes I am like Martha about it. Flustered, I start serving other people because it is all I know to do; meanwhile, my heart begs the question, “Won’t anybody help me with this?”
My toil is in vain when my heart is in this place. We actually can’t do anything for God unless we are abiding in his Spirit. That’s the tricky thing about “serving Jesus.” The value of our actions amounts to only checked boxes unless an eternal God is at work.
Jesus didn’t interject on Martha’s behalf. The work could wait because Mary needed to connect with Jesus and she chose to put that need first. She was just a girl who loved her teacher, and felt confident he wanted her close.
And that is the good news: he wants us close. We don’t need to will ourselves into more godly attitudes while we “love” others. We need to take every moment of jealousy, loneliness, performance stress, and obstruction to loving others straight to Jesus. Because hidden in a jaded attitude, is a disconnection with the truth that we are fully known, loved, and wanted by God.
Once there were two people. They stood together in brightness, but they were told they were going to be sent out into the darkness. Startled, the first person got to work building hundreds of lamps. Burying herself in in the busyness of her lamp ministry, she forgot about the light. The second person took a good long look around at the beauty of the light, then picked up a candle and walked into the darkness, carefully keeping her eye on the flame to ensure it would not be snuffed out. Everywhere she walked, the darkness would flee. Those who had been lost and afraid were forever changed by the Light of her candle. What’s more? That little flame multiplied. As she gave her light to another’s candle, torch, or kindling, she did not feel depleted; in fact, her world got brighter with every lending of her flame.
The lamp maker tried really hard. And we want to say “her heart was in the right place.” But it wasn’t. In her lack of appreciation, both of her need and and its power, she forgot the light altogether. Lamps are pretty useless without light.
Likewise, we are pretty useless without the Light. We can love, because he first loved us. If you walk around this world, knowing you are intimately loved by God, carefully addressing any wind of insecurity or judgment that could make that flame flicker, then you will push back the darkness. You will be like the candle-bearer. The Light will make that email you sent or dinner you prepared, matter. He will bring power and value to every relationship you have and every place you frequent. You will be enough for any darkness you have to walk through, because you will have your candle.
Do not fear. The love of God is enough for you and yours this Christmas, and every day thereafter. Don’t let the flame flicker because of the holiday clutter- this holiday is about this love. So put this love, first.