As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman name Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary who sat at the Lords’ 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.” (Luke 10:38-42)
The main thing is that the Main Thing be the main thing”
The main thing is that the main thing be the main thing. Stephen Covey, author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is credited with that quote. The main thing is that the main thing be the main thing. But while he may be credited with that quote, it is Jesus Christ who came up with the idea. He said it to Martha. “Only one thing is needed (learning the Word). Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her.” Or in other words, he was saying to Martha, make sure that the main thing (learning My Word) stays the main thing. Martha was not doing that. So our Lord corrected her. The main thing is that the Main Thing (learning the Word) actually stays the main thing for your Sunday’s, for your daily to-do list.
What do you suppose was on Martha’s to-do list? Not too hard to figure out if you know anything about making a meal and getting a room ready for a guest. It is also not too hard to figure out what was NOT at the top of her to-do list. What was NOT at the top of her list was learning God’s Word. We can tell by her actions.
What would we be able to tell about you if we looked at your daily actions or what you do on Sunday’s? The question that you need to be asking yourself is the same one I need to be asking myself—what is at the top of my daily to-do list—not what is supposed to be, but looking at my actions, what actually is at the top of my daily to-do list? Because the main thing is that the Main Thing actually IS the main thing.
It’s not that the other things on our to-do lists are bad. Like Martha. She was doing a good thing in getting a meal ready for her Lord. A good thing. I do not doubt that Jesus was delighted with their hospitality. It must have been so refreshing to be in a place where he could relax with people who loved him, instead of being around people who kept testing him or trying to catch him in his words. It must have felt good for Jesus, the “Son of Man who had no place to lay his head” to have a place to sleep.
But that did not stop Christ from correcting her when she failed to keep the Main Thing of learning his Word as the main thing. Her good work of making a meal turned bad when she skipped our Lord’s Bible class to make the meal and then wanted Jesus to agree with her that skipping Bible class was the right thing to do. That’s how a good thing, like work or family or relaxing, can suddenly become bad. Because the main thing is that the Main Thing be the main thing. And the Main Thing is learning Christ’s Word.
This requires first and foremost not a new way of doing but a new way of thinking, which is what repenting of our sin is about. To thinking that God’s to-do list for me which has at the top, “#1 thing to do today—learn God’s Word”—that that is more important than what I put in the #1 spot of my to-do list. God always puts “learn my Word” as the #1 thing each day. Which he does only because he loves and cares for me. For my learning his Word does him no good. But it brings me his Spirit, every day, and with him, all of God’s love given in Christ, all of God’s forgiveness earned by Christ, all of God’s compassion, for you, just for you, in Christ.
The main thing is that the Main Thing be the main thing. This is even reflected in the prayer our Savior taught us, when he taught us to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven.” What’s the very first thing he wants us to pray for every single day, before anything else? To pray that we would have his pure Word and no false doctrine, that’s what “Hallowed be your name” means. And what’s the second thing he wants us to pray for every day, before anything else? “Your kingdom come”, that is, Jesus rule like a king in the kingdom of my heart so I live a pure life according to your pure Word.
That’s what’s on the top of God’s to-do list for us every day, “learn my Word.” That’s what Jesus was teaching Martha, and us. To actually live like that is at the top of our daily to-do list. Because the main thing is that the Main Thing BE the main thing. Which means some other things may not get done, at least not today, that birthday cards may be a day late, the kitchen may not get cleaned up before bedtime, your child may be a little late for football practice.
Our Lord wants the Main Thing to be the main thing in our lives because he can see the future. He knows what is coming up for you and me. Just like he did for Mary and Martha. Something traumatic was going to happen very soon. They did not know it at this time. But Jesus did. Just like he knows what is coming up for you this week or this month– why it is so important that you be growing in his Word today. Because something traumatic may be coming up. Like it did on September 11th 15 years ago. In fact, this could be the week that you die. If it is, Satan will be making his last ditch efforts to rip your faith away from you. How good, then, that your faith in the salvation that Christ won by his death and resurrection was strengthened in your daily devotions! How good that today you who rightly receive the Lord’s Supper were made stronger by receiving the price of your salvation, Christ’s own body and blood. How good that you had reason to be reminded of your baptism, the day God adopted you has his own, washed away your sin, and promised you heaven.
Of course, this could be the week that something even more potentially dangerous to your soul happens. This could be the week that something wonderful happens, like a new job or a new boyfriend or a new pay raise. Wonderful blessings, to be sure, enjoy them. But they hold potential danger as well. Because Satan, who is no fool, often uses pleasant things to draw us away from having the Main Thing actually be the main thing in our lives. Sure, he can use traumatic events to do that, too. But more often, it is the pleasant blessings, the cabin on the lake, the visiting friends for the weekend, the big TV screen or little computer screen or even littler phone screen to get in the way of our time with the Word of God.
And so Christ says to us, “It is so very important that TODAY you are learning my Word. That TODAY you making the Main Thing be the main thing in your schedule.”
It was so important for Mary and Martha because shortly after this Bible class, their brother, Lazarus, will get terribly sick, and they will send word to Jesus to come quickly, but he will arrive “too late.” Lazarus is already dead and buried. Jesus will arrive and Martha will say, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus will respond, “Your brother will rise again.” And then Martha will have a shining moment; she will respond with one of the clearest, most beautiful confessions of faith we find in all the gospels. She will say, “Yes, Lord. I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day… I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” (John 11:23ff) Where do you suppose she learned that? And how to say it with just the right words? Perhaps in this very Bible class, the one she almost skipped. We are not told explicitly that Martha stopped making supper and sat down for Bible class. But it sure seems like it, doesn’t it. Seems that Martha stopped making supper and sat down at Jesus’ feet for the rest of the Bible class and let everyone’s stomachs rumble for a while. But they wouldn’t starve. Supper would simply be moved to the #2 spot on the to-do list. Which would make the meal all the better wouldn’t it—for we all know that hunger makes a good cook.
In our fall worship series that we begin today, entitled, “Christ’s Love, Our Calling,” from our Synod, we are going to be focusing on the grace of stewardship–of time, yes; of talents, yes; but mostly of our treasures. But no matter what part of our Christian life we focus on, it’s starting point must always be the same starting point. That the main thing is that the Main Thing BE the main thing. And the Main Thing is that we continually learn his Word. For that is how Christ’ love keeps getting poured into our leaky hearts, how the Truth keeps building up the muscles in our inmost place, and how our courage keeps getting refreshed as we live out our calling to be lights in a very dark world. Amen.