Doing it “FOR” or Doing it “WITH”

From the archives:

Recently, we studied a passage in Luke 10 where Jesus was confronted by an expert in the law. The man asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” On hearing this, our ears perk up. Surely we all want to know the answer to this one. When Jesus called on the lawyer to answer his own question, the man gave the correct answer: “Love the Lord your God and your neighbor.” In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus goes on to inform us of what it means love our neighbor, and Luke follows this with an account that helps clarify what it means to love God. At the end of Luke 10 he says:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

When Jesus came into Martha’s house, she was attempting to be the perfect hostess. The Lord was in her home and there was much to do for him. The terms “preparations” and “work” are the word which we commonly translate as “service” or “ministry.” Martha was so focused on acts of service that she was missing the person of Jesus Christ. Here was an opportunity to get to know the God who created the universe, but she’s missing it because she’s worried about fixing dinner. Mary on the other hand simply wanted to be with the Lord. She is interested in who he is and what he has to say. She wants to learn from him and pays careful attention to his words. Simply put, she wants to know him. This is a desire for a personal relationship with the Lord, and Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen what is better.

I’ll never forget the day many years ago when an elder in our church asked a profound question. He said, “Are you doing things for God or are you doing things with God?” Those words have helped shape my thinking about ministry, and they have served as a guide by which I center myself when things get crazy in life. We also find that question at the core of the passage above, and it leads me to examine myself. What is my life really about? Am I simply doing things that I think God would like so that I can feel good about myself? Or am I spending time cultivating a real relationship with my Lord and Savior?

When Mary chooses to spend time with Jesus she has indeed chosen what is best. The problem is that sometimes it’s tempting to skip our time at Jesus’ feet because “we have so much to do today.” It’s very easy to get distracted by all the things going on around us and by all the things we feel like we have to do and thus, miss out on what the Lord wants to speak to us. The truth is, however, that life is about knowing and loving Jesus. That’s it. While praying to the Father Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” We have been created to have an eternal relationship with God.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t do things that God calls us to do, but it should change the way we think about those activities. God does not ask us to serve him because he needs us to do something for him. He calls us to serve because he wants us to do things with him. He chooses to use us because he wants us to be a part of what he’s doing. We get to participate in his work, and through our interaction with him in that service, we come to a greater understanding of who he is and how he loves us. We do not have to be worried and upset about many things, feeling the pressure of “doing something for the Lord.” No, like Mary, we get to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his voice. And when we go out to do what he has commanded us, we go in his power remembering that he is at work in us and that he will accomplish what he has set out to do.

– Pastor Brandon

The preceding article was originally published in the print edition of the June 2012 Newsletter.