Is loving God is more or less important than loving neighbor?
Let us learn that it is not love God OR neighbor but love God AND neighbor.
We will look at sitting at the Lord's feet, distractions, being obsessive-compulsive, and being too busy for God.
Love God by sitting at the Lord’s feet
Martha, Martha (Luke 10:38-42)! The words are familiar to longtime Christians. We almost get a smile on our face as we remember the words. We have all known plenty of Martha’s in our lives, men and women who are too busy serving others to sit at Jesus’ feet, too preoccupied for prayer, a schedule too cluttered for church, a life too busy for personal Bible reading. It’s a common experience. We have family, friends, work or school, and material possessions which can all distract us from worship of God. We cannot discuss Martha without remembering the chapter’s context of loving God and neighbor. The parable of the Good Samaritan also precedes our story and focuses on what it means to love our neighbor. The story of Martha puts loving God in it’s proper priority, first. Nothing else comes first.
Triangulation: Mary, Marth & Jesus
Triangulation begins when a two-party relationship includes a third person. It can be natural and healthy as when a father exposes his child to the world outside the home away from its mother. It can be unhealthy as when the two parents fight over a child’s attention. The addition of a third person to any relationship has the potential for conflict. In our story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42) we see Jesus placed in an awkward position between two sisters. In many cases it is wise for any third parties to keep their mouths shut lest they become the enemy of both. However, sometimes a third party can contribute wisdom and a solution to the conflict. Jesus simply reminded us all that while serving food is good, a spiritual meal is something which will not be taken away.
Front of house vs back of house
In a restaurant there are two areas of work. In the front of the house may be the maître d', wait staff and a cashier. In the back of the house may be food staff, a bookkeeper and cleaning staff. In a restaurant the most important people are the customers. No job may get in the way of a good customer experience. In church life it’s similar. Front of the house may be pastors, musicians, ushers and worship staff. Back of house may be a pastoral care team, individuals doing personal evangelism, secretary, bookkeeper, committees, cooking and cleaning staff. All jobs are important. However, sometimes we can become so busy doing God’s work that we don't take time for God. No job ought to prevent us from a most important task: sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42).
I read a story of a lady in line for communion at her local church when her cell phone went off. The pastor did not miss an opportunity for a little fun and said to tell them that we don’t do take out. Our lives are filled with distractions. Family, friends, job, school, television, radio, email, social networking, home maintenance, shopping: all distract us. Advertisers try to distract us with endless forests of junk mail hoping that their endless destruction of trees will return just a little income. We go to church to get closer to God, but even there we find distractions that can even make a retired person forget to pray. Finding time to sit at the feet of the master (Luke 10:38-42) is an endless struggle. It takes self-discipline to be still and listen to God.
Our obsessive-compulsive world
When I started studying for a master’s degree we were told in an introductory class that if we were not yet obsessive-compulsive, we had better become that way in order to succeed academically. I soon realized what was meant. Graduate studies have become a tiresome round of picayune rules with seemingly endless lists of things to do. No wonder that some administrators are trying to restructure seminaries along the lines of Jesus’ training of the twelve and move away from the Pharisaic world of academia! It is not just academics that has become obsessive-compulsive. Legislative overload has forced us all to become this way in order just to survive in the modern world. We are modern slaves. Where does Jesus fit into this? Do we take time to escape the rat race and rest at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42)?
Too busy for the things of God
The stories of the Good Samaritan, and Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) show how we can all get too busy for the important things of God. The priest and Levite were too busy being super righteous that they had no time for one of the most important aspects of God’s work, showing love to a neighbor. Martha was too busy in kitchen preparation so that she could show love to her neighbors through food, that she could not show love to God by listening to Jesus. We all need to take time for God: faithful church attendance, praying often, Bible reading, tithes and offerings, meditating on and discussing the things of God and occasional fasting. Both loving God and loving neighbor are so intertwined that we cannot neglect the one and claim to be fully obedient to the other.
Sitting at the Lord's feet in prayer, Bible reading, mediation and occasional fasting is important. Let us not allow distractions, being obsessive-compulsive, or any other thing to make us too busy for God. Let's take time to sit at Jesus' feet.