At the beginning of Chapter 3 (“Life with God”) of God is Closer Than You Think, author John Ortberg discusses Luke’s account of Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Pastor Ortberg notes that the story isn’t about personality types, but rather a contrast between a fundamental Decision and a fundamental Obstacle to experiencing the presence of God.
When Luke tells us that Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet”, he is not just describing proximity, but Mary’s fundamental decision to be with Jesus. In fact, in ancient times disciples would try to be around their rabbi at all times, not just during formal teaching sessions. Bible scholar Ray van der Laan states that first-century Jews had a beautiful way of expressing this commitment: “May you always be covered with the dust of your rabbi.” The “one thing needed” that Mary chose was to be with Jesus no matter what else was going on around her.
On the other hand, Martha’s fundamental obstacle was distraction. She allowed the pressure of providing hospitality to distract her from being with Jesus. Our ministry downsizing or position loss carries great distraction potential. We must be intentional in expressing joy, grace and thanksgiving as we experience God’s presence.