In the 1970s Mac Davis had a hit record titled Stop and Smell the Roses. For years I had no deep understanding of what Mac was talking about. As a working mother I often found myself stressed out over the many responsibilities that were hanging over my head. If there were roses around, I wasn't only not smelling them, I wasn't even seeing them!
There was a woman in the Bible who did see and understand the principle of this song. And she had a sister who, like me, was clueless. Let me tell you this tale of two sisters.
Mary and Martha lived in Bethany, a village not far from Jerusalem. They had a brother named Lazarus. None of them appears to have been married, at least no spouses are mentioned. Jesus knew them quite well. One gospel account tells us that He loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
Martha was the older sister. We can surmise from Luke 10:38 that she may have owned the home she welcomed Jesus into. Because of Bethany's closeness to Jerusalem He may have stayed with them often.
On one particular visit Martha prepared a large meal. Jesus may have had several disciples with him. Perhaps the 12, perhaps more. Neighbors could have also gathered after hearing that Jesus was at Martha's house. All we know for sure is that Mary was sitting and listening to Jesus while Martha was working. This bothered Martha and she asked Jesus about it.
"Don't you care Lord that my sister is leaving me to do all the work. Tell her to help me" (Luke 10:40, NLT). Jesus chided Martha a little. I would imagine it was gently done because of His love for this family. He told Martha she was worried and troubled about many things. Too concerned about the details of everything. He pointed out that what Mary was learning was important information that couldn't be taken away from her. Maybe He even told Martha the dishes could wait.
The Bible doesn't record what Martha replied to Christ, but it would be interesting to know. Did she go off muttering to herself about how no one ever helped her or did she take time to sit down and listen to what else Jesus had to say?
Put first things first
Do you ever find yourself being a Martha? Are you sometimes so busy that you don't take time to sit at Jesus' feet? Martha obviously was a person with many responsibilities. She had a home and took care of a brother and sister. She did this without the modern conveniences of today. It was a difficult task in a challenging time in history. Was she wrong to put so much effort into her life? No. But, as Jesus told her, we must put first things first.
This tale of two sisters points out the importance of taking time from our busy lives to spend time with God and His Son Jesus Christ. So how can we make sure we are doing all we can to build our relationship with our God and His Son?
First, it is more important for me to spend time with God than it is to have my floor waxed. There was a time in my life when I would have made myself sick with guilt if my house were the least bit dirty. But Mary taught me an important lesson about faithfulness to God. Perhaps she was even present when He uttered the words from Matthew 6:33: "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Sometimes we have to let things go for a time. Does this mean God wants me to have a dirty house, an unkempt yard or a sloppy lifestyle? No, but if I do my part and seek God first, He will take care of the rest. Does God do my dusting, washing and mowing? No. But when I put my life in God's hands, things seem to work more smoothly. I get more things done than I ever thought possible. And the things I don't get done I don't stress about.
Mary was learning at Jesus' feet that the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). She found that pearl of great price that makes life worth living.
Even on the go
Consider, too, that each of us is an individual with different responsibilities. We must each find our unique way of building our relationship with our Creator.
Daniel's example teaches us that regular contact with God is essential. But there may be days when your prayers are longer than other days. Ephesians 6:18 tells us to pray always. It is not the length but the sincerity that God is seeking. The Pharisees were noted for long prayers, and Christ was not happy with their fruit.
We know we are to study the Word of God. It may not always be possible to sit down and study the Bible for an hour. But you could listen to sermon or Bible study tapes on your way to and from work. We are a traveling society. Sometimes it seems I spend more time in my car than in my house every day.
Colossians 3:16 says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs..." We can learn about God from songs about Him. We can sing to ourselves, or we can listen to others singing. There are many good sources of Christian music. Your sermon for the day may be via your car's cassette or CD player.
Jesus told Martha that there was one thing needed, and that Mary had chosen it. The story of Mary and Martha points to our need to sit at Jesus' feet and learn from Him. It also points to our need to want to do this. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). David expressed it this way: "One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life. To behold the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in His temple" (Psalm 27:4). If your desire to study is diminished, ask God to help your desire increase. He knows our needs, but we need to ask.
Mac Davis was right. We do need to stop and smell the roses. Let's take the time to do so even if we have to cut the rose and carry it with us in order to smell it.