Distracted From The Necessary

We are distracted people. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines "distract" this way:
1 a: to turn aside : divert "refused to be distracted from her purpose" b: to draw or direct (as one's attention) to a different object or in different directions at the same time "was distracted by a sudden noise"
2: to stir up or confuse with conflicting emotions or motives.
We have more things that distract us today than ever before in history. We have cell phones, TV, computers, iPods, all kinds of activities, etc. that can distract us from things that are more important. At one time Jesus dealt with a woman who was distracted by kind of a surprising thing, a thing we probably wouldn't classify as a "distraction." The story is in Luke 10:38-42:

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord's word, seated at His feet. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

The thing that distracted Martha was "all her preparations." The Greek word the New Testament uses here for "distracted" is perispao - to "draw around" or to "draw away." Martha was drawn away by her preparations. The King James reads "Martha was cumbered about much serving." The KJV is closer to the Greek text in it's translation than the NASB. The Greek says the thing that was distracting Martha was "pollen diakonian", much serving. Now, serving is not a bad thing, is it? Jesus calls us to be servants of one another. He said the greatest in the kingdom is the greatest servant. But for Martha at this point, her serving was a distraction from something more important. She was distracted from listening to the Lord, as Mary chose to do. Sometimes we can be so busy "serving" that it draws us away from more important things, like quietly sitting and listening to the Lord.

People like Martha who are distracted by much serving are often resentful of others who are not so vigorous or meticulous in their serving. They will complain that no one is helping, that they are left to do all the serving alone. They develop a martyr complex, a "poor me, nobody cares about me" attitude. Martha resented Mary for not pitching in to help. She resented the fact that Mary had chosen to sit and listen to Jesus. So Martha took action. She interrupted Jesus and actually reproached Him and accused Him of not caring! Not only did she accuse Him of being uncaring, but also demanded that He order Mary to help her!

Jesus was not sympathetic to Martha's plight. He saw what the real problem was. The problem was with Martha, not with Mary. Jesus gently pointed out the problem to Martha. He said that she was "worried and bothered about so many things." The words indicate that she was "full of care" and "troubled" or disturbed about many things. She was worried and bothered about her serving, about preparing and serving the meal, about setting the table, about cleaning up after the meal, etc. She was not serving joyfully, but was weighed down by it and resentful of it. But note that it was all self-imposed. No one had required all of this of her, she required it of herself and wanted to impose it on her sister as well. So much of our anxiety is just like this. We are worried and bothered about things that we need not be. This can often prevent us from enjoying those times that should be enjoyable.

All of this anxiety and activity distracted Martha from what Jesus called "the good part" that Mary had chosen. Mary had chosen the good "portion." A.T. Robertson says that Mary had chosen, "The best dish on the table, fellowship with Jesus. This is the spiritual application of the metaphor of the dishes on the table." Jesus told Martha that all these things that were so "necessary" in her mind were really not so necessary. Only one thing is really necessary, and Mary had chosen it. The thing we need to do is refuse the unnecessary distractions and simply pay attention to Jesus. Fellowship with Him should take precedence over everything else. He said, "My sheep hear my voice" (John 10:27). The Father said, "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!" (Luke 9:35). Jesus loves it when we sit at His feet and listen to Him, because listening is essential to following and obeying. This is what His sheep and His diciples do, they listen and follow.

But if we are distracted, even by something that seems good like "much serving," we may find that we are irritable toward others. We even may resent the Lord Himself and think that He doesn't care about us! What about you? What distracts you from the "good part" that is the one thing that is really necessary? Are you so busy that you have no time for the word of God and prayer? Are you too distracted by TV and the internet and your cell phone? Maybe it's worries and anxieties and fears about life in general. Maybe Jesus would call on you to re-evaluate what you consider to be "necessary," and urge you to choose the "good part." He certainly won't take it away from you!

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