“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
My mom called me the other week and recalled a haunting dream that she had. In this dream, she rose and went to church, as on a standard Sunday. While the inside of the church was unfamiliar, the content of the dream was all too familiar to me, though drastically dramatized. Someone taught from the pulpit on the stage at the front of the church. My mom sat in the middle, and found herself increasingly uncomfortable. The more that she became aware of her surroundings, the more she realized that everyone’s phone occupied their full attention. Deafening chatter, both technological and conversational, filled the room. So much so, that it prevented anyone from hearing the word, which all seemingly lacked any interest in hearing when the illustrious appeal of their device or their dialogue, of likely diminutive importance, lay before them. Exasperated, overwhelmed, and full of a desire for the word over the world, my mom darted for the front to learn.
This dream immediately convicted me. I heard in a sermon the other day that the average person will spend roughly five years of their life on social media. FIVE YEARS. Scrolling. Burying themselves in garbage. Descending into a black hole of nothingness. Adults in my age group (18-25 years old) use their phones for roughly four hours a day.
That said, I will be the first to say that social media is of great value. Endless resources for encouragement, correction, teaching, learning, understanding, and anything imaginable await. What an immeasurable privilege! If I find myself caught in a snare of confusion, hooked in of disappointment or demoralized and wrecked with discouragement, I turn to sermons, articles, commentaries, and music that all declare the sweetness and goodness and faithfulness of the LORD.
Social media builds up and encourages when we employ and wield it in the proper manner. But, in a different sense, if social media did not exist, inevitably when profuse and inordinate circumstances stand firmly before us and demand responsive action, we may find ourselves inclined to instead rush and tumble directly to what all of these other things point to; prayer, immersion in the Word of God, and a meeting with God himself.
Look back at Luke 10:38-42. A woman named Martha and her sister Mary welcome Jesus into their home. Martha rummages about, scraping things together, and she feels the stress, weight, and pressure of entertaining Jesus as she readies the home for him. Mary meanwhile, sits at Jesus’ feet and eagerly attends to his teaching. Frustrated with her sister’s unwillingness to help due to Jesus’ mesmerizing presence and authority, Martha begs the Lord to command Mary into service alongside her.
Jesus’ response seems subtle and understated. Yet, upon further examination, we discover Jesus presenting himself as a bottomless well of sufficiency and satisfaction. Jesus soothes and calms Martha as he unloads her burdens and explains that “one thing is necessary” (Luke 10:42). What is this one thing? It is that we choose the “good portion” like Mary.
What is the good portion? A portion of food? I want to look back into the Old Testament for a proper definition of the word, because Jesus’ teaching hangs on our understanding of it. Portion refers to land allocation in times of division from the ancient Hebrew culture. Often, as in Joshua and other texts, land distribution went out in “portions.” In the Hebrew agricultural society, your sustenance stemmed from your “portion” of land. Settling on fruitful land with good soil all but guaranteed sufficiency, and perhaps abundance, for one’s household.
With this understanding, Lamentations 3:24 underscores what Jesus teaches in Luke 10:38-42. “The LORD is my portion, therefore I will hope in him.” We can only truly hope in him when we understand what we are actually hoping in. We now see him as our provision. When we fail to hope in him and have anxiety and worry and fear, it simply reveals that we really do not believe in the Gospel and we do not truly see him as he is.
When Jesus cajoles Martha into submitting to him and drew her away from her countless trifling tasks, he urges her to choose “the good portion” alongside Mary. He means that Mary chose the good land when she sat at his feet and learned from him and took up his easy yoke and light burden, for we discover constant provision there, as opposed to fidgeting with insecurity and anxiety while we toil away in our serving or our work or our career or bury ourselves in our technology – our metaphorical novacane injection that numbs it all.
While the rest of the world works away in hopes of material prosperity or stumbling their way to success, the LORD is our “portion” and our precious possession that ensures a contentment and satisfaction far better than the guaranteed resulting emptiness of those pursuits. Our distraction actually comes from our anxiety, which is symptomatic of our reliance on our own work and our inability to bank on our own efforts. We get anxious because we know that we do not have the resources or the ability or the power or the sovereignty.
We need to choose the good portion. We need to lift our eyes from our diversions and futile and inconsequential pursuits and set our minds on things above. We need to confess that he is our provision and we are nothing without him. Oh, the irreplaceable joy of resting in him and sitting at his feet.