Mary, Martha & The Necessary Thing: Setting Priorities As Christians

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about a great many things. Mary has chosen the better (the necessary thing) and it will never be taken away from her.”
-Luke 10:41

THE NECESSARY THING”…but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken from her.” (LUKE 10:42). The good part, which Mary had chosen, was to listen to the Lord’s teaching. In the final scheme of things, the things Jesus said that day were of much more importance than what He ate. Today, if we are too busy to commune with the Lord; to pray and study His word; to meditate on life’s purpose and to enjoy a peaceful, private time with Him, then there is something horribly wrong with our practice. If our walk of faith consists mainly of going to church and then on with life’s busy day then we are not receiving of the goodness that the Lord has planned for us. And if we are so hassled by the routines of daily existence that we find ourselves lashing out at those we love as Martha did on that occasion, then isn’t that a good indication that something needs fixed?

This interpretation much like the countless sermons I have sat through speaks regarding Martha’s misguided priorities. However, I never quite bought into this explanation as the only prevailing commentary. As a professional organizer, I relate to Martha. I emulate her quest for excellence in whatever I do.

When we examine Martha in the gospels there is much to be said for this excellent woman. In fact, in all of the four gospels it is written that Jesus loves four people: John, Lazarus, Mary and Martha. So right at the start, we know Martha and Jesus have a very special relationship, one that is filled with love and intimacy. But even more importantly, Martha understands what few do not— that Jesus is Messiah.

This story states that Jesus and His disciples arrive at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. I don’t know about you, but if my pastor decided to drop by for a meal, I wouldn’t serve tuna on toast. I’d be in the kitchen preparing something rather extraordinary and making sure everything was perfect. But this isn’t a pastor…this is Jesus… this is Messiah!

The pivotal point of this message seems to hinge on Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet. The term sitting at one’s feet means to be taught, listening intently to a lesson. Do you remember the movie Yentl? It’s a 60’s classic that tells the story of a Jewish girl so desperate to be taught Judaic law that she disguises herself as a boy. Even today, Jewish women are not given the same opportunities as men in Jewish orthodoxy. Men and women can’t even sit in the same room in the synagogue! Personally, this hits home because my mother didn’t insist that I become Bat Mitzvah; unlike my brother who was assumed at birth he would have a Bar Mitzvah at thirteen.

So how did this happen that Mary is there? Mary would have had to been invited by Jesus. Like Yentl, Mary was so desperate to be taught that she accepts His invitation. That’s what Jesus does over and over again, boldly elevating women by placing men and women as equals. Jesus challenges the status quo frequently throughout the gospels and in doing so, Jesus breaks social and Judaic law. But don’t miss this…Mary is also breaking Judaic and social law. Mary decides that she’d rather be the talk of the town than to miss out on His teachings. But Mary had to get out of her comfort zone to hear!

Can you imagine the thoughts stirring in the disciples’ heads? This is unthinkable; this is not right…what about tradition?

Martha must have been thinking, “All this is happening in my home…. what will people think”? This certainly is not kosher! Martha’s anxious reaction was not wrong. Her thinking was the accumulation of generational reasoning. Martha believed her role was to serve, and boy could she ever! This was her expertise! However, Mary chose something radically new, because she wanted more of Jesus.

In order for change to take place, we must get out of our comfort zone, and sometimes that decision must be made in a split second. Jesus knows Martha’s heart. She feels comfortable in her serving role. Dropping her intended duties or even the plan for the day makes her uncomfortable. I know many, myself included, who struggle with embracing the unfamiliar. I pray that as I begin to draw closer to Jesus, His words become clearer and my desire to obey His leading becomes a priority in my life.

How willing are we to let go of the familiar? Are we desperate enough for God, or are we too comfortable in our ways? As we move into unknown territories and allow God to use us in ways we presently cannot imagine, then our daily priorities shift. If we are willing, then we will have chosen the better, and that will never be taken away from us.

Identifying Your Priorities

When seeking the Lord becomes your priority, all other things will be added unto you. But just like learning a new skill, it takes wisdom and consistency to build the priority muscle. The good news is that identifying your priorities is a skill you can learn. It involves dismissing the unimportant (at the moment) and narrowing your focus to what is the most critical. Planning your goals and/or days based on your priorities rather than urgency will give you a greater sense of peace and purpose. Resistance to plans often comes with the mindset that disruptions happen, so why plan? Planning the day will give you a framework from which to work, rather than winging it.

This decision-making process can be guided by the following questions:

  1. What is your most urgent and important need? Is there anything that is time sensitive?
  2. How much energy will it take, either physically or mentally? Should you do it first thing in the morning or wait until later?
  3. Is there anyone that you need to help make decisions with regards to this task?
  4. Is there anyone to whom you can delegate this task?

If you don’t plan your week, your week will plan itself for you. When you fill up your calendar with everything that doesn’t reflect your values and priorities, you’ll find yourself frustrated by the end of the week. When you begin your day in God’s presence, you’ll have clearer and more purposeful thinking. Take time to rest in the Lord’s presence.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”.

Romans 8:28

An organized life is a life that flows freely. My calling as a certified professional organizer is to introduce or re-introduce that freedom into my client’s life. Creating an orderly environment does more than allow them to move and think unencumbered; it opens them to a greater understanding of priority and purpose.

Finding ones priority clarifies ones purpose, and this pursuit is played out daily in the theater of the world. Many clients read article after article and purchase mountains of organizing books, yet their desire for a more organized space is never fully realized. That’s because the world see an organized space as ‘the goal’

Organizers understand that an organized space allows room for purpose to flourish. Purpose is hard for many to identify, but that is ultimately what a professional organizer is equip to unveil as sessions become more streamlined and priorities are magnified. A Christian organizer will reflect God’s glory so that our clients see the greater purpose for their lives. When God is the priority, then their purpose is uncovered.

The organizing process is like going through a refiners fire. In the refining process, heat is applied, and the silver and the impurities separate. The pure silver settles to the bottom and the impurities rise to the top where they can be skimmed off. It brings impurities to the surface so they can be removed. During the “heat” of the session, our clients begin to separate the trash from the treasures, and those things that are no longer needed or of little value are discarded or removed. A cluttered and dysfunctional space clogs any ability for God purpose to move into their lives.

Many times this is an agonizing process. But in the larger picture, God is refining their space, and at the same time, refining their hearts so that he can begin to move into their lives<./p>

Towards the end of the session, the purpose of the space becomes clearer, and then priorities also shift. Organizers observe this in many ways, but I’m always moved by my clients tears of joy when they can begin, for the first time in many years, see priority and purpose. It is with great honor and respect that I am guided into homes to introduce or re-introduce, in a very tangible way, priority and purpose into lives that would otherwise be in continued chaos. Space, well organized, is a welcoming stage. In it, you are allowed to think, dream and even focus on your greater purpose.

For when we, who love God, are called according to His purpose, all things will work in harmony…. our spaces included!

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