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Busy like Martha, asks Fish, or listening to Jesus like Mary?

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Fellowship with God, not working for God, should be the priority of Christians, said Roy Fish, distinguished professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Are Christians today like Martha, always bustling about, upset and turbulent because life’s frustrations are getting to them? Fish asked.
Or are they like her sister Mary, putting aside the distractions of the world to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him speak?
“It is so easy to get your priorities into a sad state of disarray,” Fish warned, using the Luke 10 account of Jesus’ visit to the sisters’ home as his chapel text Jan. 27.
“Be careful about your priorities,” Fish said. “The first priority is to maintain a vital fellowship with Jesus.”
Three things last forever — God, his Word and people — and those things should determine Christians’ priorities, the professor said.
“Get to know God, and get to know him well and do everything you can to get Jesus into the hearts and homes of others,” he said.
Fish noted despite Martha’s problem with setting priorities, she had many good qualities. She welcomed Jesus into her home, although that was offset by being so busy that she had no time for fellowship with him. Her situation, Fish said, can be applied directly to the lives of Christians today.
“How well do you know him? How often do you talk to him? How well do you let him speak to you through his Word?” Fish asked.
Jesus does not just want people to let him in, Fish said, but he also wants them to search out the “unsearchable riches” that he offers.
“There’s more in him than you have ever found. Get to know him,” Fish urged.
Martha was also not afraid to work and was a person of great faith, Fish said, reminding the audience that just before Jesus brought her brother Lazarus back to life, Martha made the same confession that Peter had: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
Despite her hospitality, industriousness and faith, Martha failed to see what was most important when Jesus visited, Fish said.
“Only once in human history has God come down to robe himself in human flesh,” Fish said. “He was in Martha’s home, and her primary concern was basting the roast.”
Misplaced priorities, Fish added, “inevitably lead to frustrations.” Martha’s motives were pure — she wanted to prepare a good feast for Jesus — but distractions prevented her motives from leading to the right actions.
“A hundred distractions, like a spider web, were weaving themselves into her mind,” Fish said.
Frustration can arise from confused priorities, which in Martha’s case caused her to get angry at her sister who sat and did “nothing” while she was preparing the meal.
“Martha’s short fuse had burned out,” Fish said, recounting she was angry with Mary, and angry with Jesus for not rebuking Mary.
Jesus’ response was a gentle rebuke at Martha for being upset. Fish said the Greek word “upset” includes a stem used in the word “turbulent.” She was being tossed about on the inside, in effect, because she had not made the right decision, Fish said.
Mary, who had been working until Jesus arrived, had her priorities straight, Fish continued. When Jesus came, she sat at his feet — a position of humility — and listened to him.
“She listened to him speak. Do you listen to him speak?” Fish asked.
Later, in the Gospel of John, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume, incurring the reproach of the disciples but the approval of Jesus.
“I want to have the devotion that woman had,” Fish said. “She was willing to bear reproach because she loved Jesus.”
In the Luke account, Jesus commended Mary for “choosing the best part” — to spend time with the Son of God rather than be distracted by worldly concerns.
“You can’t blame your lack of time with Jesus on circumstances. It’s a choice,” Fish said.
There was a “great contest between material and spiritual values” involved in Mary’s choice, Fish said, and she had chosen “the better part.”
“One thing really matters,” he said. “One thing. Seek ye first the kingdom of God.”

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  • Cory J. Hailey