Most of us put on enough good shows in the Christian life to be considered a three-ring circus. One of those shows is the mask of servanthood and politeness covering what is really selfishness.
Jesus enters the home of some of His close friends and encounters what would appear to be an extremely selfless woman in the eyes of many. Martha is scurrying about the home, cooking up a storm and trying to make everything absolutely “Martha Stewart-esque” for Jesus. (Maybe that’s who Martha Stewart gets her inspiration from!) And while she may have appeared humble and servantly, Jesus wouldn’t have harshly rebuked her if her heart was in the right place.
“Martha, Martha … you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed,” He told her (Luke 10:41-42).
Like so many of us who work tirelessly for churches or “travail for the good Lord” in other areas, Martha had gotten into a rut. Rather than her work flowing out of a humble, selfless heart that simply wanted to serve Jesus, her work became selfishly motivated with the hope that perhaps Jesus would notice her and give her kudos.
And then there was Mary. Mary was the seemingly lazy sister who just lounged at Jesus’ feet. Come on, chick, at least offer Him something to drink, right?
But Mary was the one whom Jesus gave props to: “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).
She just sat there listening, perhaps offering her responses every once in a while. But her ambition was selfless; her heart was pure.
How many of us can say that our hearts are entirely selfless when listening to God or to others? Listening is difficult, but it’s the reason God gave us two ears and only one mouth. So often in our times with God, we only want to listen when it will benefit us, when we will end up looking better in the end. Example: God says, “Give your tithe and you will be blessed.” We say, Sweet, Lord, I’d love to be blessed!” But if God tells us to move to China and leave behind everything we love and cherish without the promise of spoiling us like a rich kid on Christmas morning, how do we respond then?
We are often selfish when listening to others as well. Why invest deep conversations in someone else if they are not going to tell you how wonderful they think you are, our selfish ambition demands. Why listen to someone’s travesties if they aren’t going to take the time to listen to your aches and pains? You’ve got to give a little and take a little, like the song says, but our selfishness always demands that we take a little more.
But in the end, it’s not about us. It’s not necessarily about the problems our friends may spend hours telling us about either. It’s about what Jesus alluded to when He said, “But only one thing is needed” (Luke 10:42).
When our eyes are fixed on the one thing (see Matthew 6:33), selfish ambition slowly melts away. We too become mesmerized on what truly matters, and sitting at His feet, or serving Him by sitting at the feet of others simply listening, becomes a pleasure not a duty.[Lindsay Goodier is finishing up her last month at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., attempting to really be selfless when she lets people cut in front of her in cafeteria lines or holds the door open for boys (oh wait, isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?).]