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Not All Activity Is Equal

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better…”    Luke 10:41, 42

One of my memories of a rēp Venture in South Africa is of Errol Smith “hanging” at the location where we gathered. After months of work leading up to the Venture, he expressed his joy in just being there, seeing what God was doing, and soaking up God’s presence. On a regular day, my guess is that Errol is as good a Martha as you can get. The good news is that he can flip the switch and be a Mary too. There are multiple types of work, and there is nothing wrong with being busy. Busyness is not the same as hurriedness, says Dallas Willard. We can be busy on the outside yet unhurried on the inside. Likewise, we can be calm on the outside, but internally we have checked out of conversations because we are distracted and at the next venue already. The question is not whether work or rest is better: you could say that all we do is (work that is) done “unto the Lord.” So we can be at rest in our working. We can, however, be busy with Grade-B activities that are characterized by hurry, not rest.

“Mary has chosen what is better.” Ouch! There is a better, and it involves a choice of how we use our time. Not all activity is equal. Even though all of life is God’s, we still have to make choices about how we use our time so that we can say No to the temporary, and “Yes” to the eternal.

Jesus came to their house: Martha got busy for Jesus, and Mary got busy with Jesus. Martha was distracted (“you are worried and upset about many things”) and Mary remained focused (“only one thing”). Martha ended up disgruntled (“don’t you care”), and Mary was content.

I love to see the productivity of the rēp folks, whether as clients or consultants or intercessors or investors or in operations. God is against under-employment. But I think we can all distinguish between when activity is rooted in rest and when it spins out of restlessness. It is harder in human relationships to go through the recovery steps of repairing neglected relationships than to simply keep them intact in the first place. Husbands and wives know this; so do co-workers. So does God. So he urges us to choose what is better: work from a place of rest. “There remains then a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall.”

Not all activity is equal. Choose what is better. Hang with Jesus and his friends when the opportunity comes along.


  • Are you busy for Jesus, or busy with Jesus?

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