The latter part of Luke chapter 10 presents us with an interesting study in contrasts. First of all, Jesus tells His famous story of the good Samaritan, which includes two different religious workers who couldn’t be bothered to stop and help a beaten and bleeding man, laying “half dead” on the road. And then, in the latter part of the chapter, we are given the account of Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary and Martha – one of whom sat at Jesus’ feet, hanging on His every word, while the other was oh, so busy in the kitchen.
So what is the contrast? Well, these two sections demonstrate to us two dangers in the Christian life.
First you have the priest and the Levite of Jesus’ celebrated story. These were the sort of men who were used to religious activity. Perhaps they’d have been as comfortable and interested as Mary was, later in the chapter, to sit at the feet of a learned Rabbi (though perhaps not Mary’s Rabbi!). They were religious men, and could probably move about comfortably in that world. But when it came time to put hands and feet to their faith; when it came time to stoop down and serve people … well, that was another story. Both of them “passed by on the other side” of the road. They were religious, but without love, or compassion, or a desire to serve others.
Contrast that with Martha. Far be it from her to keep her fingernails clean, or to leave those in need unserved. No, no! When Jesus came into her house, she was quite busy “with all her preparations.” So busy, in fact, that Luke calls her “distracted.” Distracted enough, in fact, that she could not bring herself to simply sit down and listen to the voice of the Master!
And in these final verses of Luke chapter 10, we have two portraits of two different dangers in the religious world.
There are some of us who love to come to meeting, and to hear the word, and to soak up the religious atmosphere and services. And that is wonderful, and vital! But when it comes to putting our religion into practice by serving other people, we pull back (out of callousness, or disgust with others who seem ‘beneath’ us, or even because – as Spurgeon suggested re: the priest and the Levite – because we are simply in too big of a hurry). And we must repent ... and beware a faith that is big on religious services, but light on true Christian service.
On the other hand, beware also of a Martha-like over busy-ness. Beware thinking that arduously serving others is the beginning and end of godliness. There is a time, yes, to set down your Bible, and to close up your hymnal, and to get your hands dirty putting the Bible into practice on behalf of other people. But there is also a time to simply sit with Mary at the Savior’s feet, “listening to His word.” And we must learn to differentiate between the two. We mustn’t be so busy with our Christian work that we actually begin to neglect time spent in the word!
In which direction are you most prone to fall off the horse? Religion ... but without works of love and compassion? Or laborious activity ... to the neglect of personal fellowship with Christ? Ask the Lord for balance! And then take advantage of the opportunities He will surely provide to help you bring that balance about!