In Luke 10:38-42 we read of how two sisters, Martha and Mary differed in their responses to their very special guest Jesus. As written in the verses, Martha busied herself being a good host, while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him. I was familiar with this story even as a child but recently I’ve found myself reflecting on these verses again and again because, between Martha and Mary, I know exactly which one I am like.
If I were to imagine that Jesus was physically coming to visit me in my house, I too can picture myself hurriedly setting the living room, making sure that I have food and drinks ready for Him. Perhaps I’d even polish the doorbell just so that it wouldn’t stain His perfect hands. I’d want everything to be just right for Him so that we can enjoy our time together. Wouldn’t the Lord be pleased at my diligence in preparing for Him?
Yet the words recorded in Luke 10 are a real affront to my expectations. Firstly, Luke records not that Martha was doing a good job but that she ’was distracted by much serving’. Next, Jesus appears to brush aside Martha’s complaints instead gently stating that it was Mary’s choice, to sit at His feet and listen, that is the good portion she should have chosen to do. Surely all this must have been very perplexing for Martha to hear.
I don’t think that Jesus was belittling Martha for her desire to serve Him. Rather I believe He was simply trying to teach her an important lesson. It appears that Martha was so preoccupied by all the things that she had planned and wanted to do for Jesus that she was being distracted from what was more important: simply sitting at His feet and listening to what He had to say. Could it be that Martha did not feel it was her right to sit at Jesus’ feet? Or that she had some responsibilities to fulfil as a host to her honoured guest? I may never know the truth driving her actions but there are several lessons I have learnt from Jesus’ words.
Firstly, there are times when my desire to serve ends up controlling me and drives out my fellowship with the Lord. I occupy myself with many things for the purpose of glorifying the Lord but in the midst of my busy-ness, I fail to see Him sitting there patiently waiting for me to turn my attention back to Him. From Jesus’ words, listening appears to take priority even above serving, which is truthfully easier said than done. I can recall countless times when I have simply used my own mind and reasoning and rushed in to get something done, only to struggle through it. It is only when I finally turn back to the Lord in frustration, much like Martha, do I finally realise my blunder.
Lastly, in the event where I, like Mary, choose to first listen to God before acting, there will be times when others, like Martha, may grumble and judge me for my inaction. However, as Jesus has promised, this choice is the good choice and I am comforted that Jesus Himself came to Mary’s defense. In addition, Jesus adds that Mary’s choice to sit at the Lord’s feet will not be taken away. As a Christian, it is such a blessed joy to know that my time with the Lord is seen as so precious to Him and that I can enjoy it always without fear that it will ever be taken away from me.
I am grateful for the simple lesson in this short account which teaches me so much to keep my focus on God no matter what I do. So likewise, if you too are a follower of Christ, rejoice in the gift that we have been given, that we can partake of this good choice and fellowship with a Living God, to sit at His feet and listen to His voice now and always.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in True Way,
Right now in Japan, Hooi Yin and I are not yet involved in ministry work as WEC has set aside our first 2 years for language studies. However, there have been times when I’ve found myself longing to be more involved in ministry or church work. We can see plainly the many struggles of Pastors and churches who do not have enough workers at hand and feel bad that we cannot offer more help. Yet to do so would definitely distract us from getting as seasoned with the Japanese language and culture as we can. Thus, it is wiser for us to simply wait patiently as the Lord’s plan for us slowly unfolds in His own timing.
Without fail the Lord has provided for us bountifully. Despite our busyness, Hooi Yin and I continue to progress in our studies and while we have been through many emotional ups and downs, the Lord has seen us through every obstacle.
He has also blessed our children with numerous friends in their respective schools, friends who do not care that they do not speak perfect Japanese but enjoy their company nonetheless. Our boys have been regularly inviting friends over to our house or been invited over to friend’s houses to play where they get to pick up the language at a far faster pace than either of us. We have thus also been blessed with opportunities to speak to their classmate’s parents and so exercise our language skills.
In addition, the church in Ritto we attend has been so warm and welcoming to us as a family that when I look back at how awkward our first few visits were I can scarcely recognise myself then. All in all, the changes we have experienced in the past year have been so numerous and overwhelming, but we rejoice that by God’s grace, we as a family are settling in Japan smoothly.
So now as we stand at the cusp of a New Year, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you, our True Way family, for walking alongside us in our journey. Your prayers and thoughts have been invaluable in our first year here in Japan. It has also been a joy to hear how things are going back home and we too have been remembering you in our prayers as well. May the Lord continue to bless you as you too walk faithfully in the word, exercising faith and love and being a blessing to many. A blessed New Year to each of you and God’s peace and grace be with you now and always!
Sean Tan (Missionary to Japan)
December 29, 2019