It doesn’t seem like a hard question to answer, does it?
Is God’s to-do list more important than your to-do list? That’s what we call a no-brainer, right?
Not so fast. In the midst of the busyness of life and service to God, that question can be botched quite badly by all of us – and especially by those most zealous in their service to God!
In next Sunday’s gospel (Luke 10:38-42), Martha gets it entirely wrong. And so have I, countless times.
As Jesus, the eternal Son of God, enters Martha and Mary’s home on that day, what was on top of his to-do list? “Speak the comforting gospel of eternal life for the strengthening of faith to the hearts of Martha and Mary” (who, unbeknownst to them are quite soon to lose their brother to terminal illness!).
Conversely, as Jesus entered her home, what was on top of Martha’s to-do list? Well, it’s hard to say exactly what was #1 on the list. There were many things on her list tossing her about. But this much is certain: the top of her list did not read “Listen to the Son of God who is going to give me treasures that can never be taken away and that strengthen my faith and empower me for service to him as I live under his cross and mine.”
Certainly, Martha’s desire to serve her Savior was a confession of faith. Whatever the specific preparations were on Martha’s to-do list, I have no doubt that Jesus would delighted in the hospitality of a home that didn’t invite him over to test him but because they loved him. The Son of Man who had no place to lay his head certainly enjoyed being able to sleep with something better than a “Jacob pillow” under his head and with a meal prepared with love and attention.
Yet, Martha’s confusion about whose to-do list needed to win out that day was a very real danger to her faith and to that very service she longed to give Jesus! Such desires to serve and the wisdom to serve wisely and well are not intrinsic to sinners’ hearts. Such desires to serve only thrive in hearts that have been well served by Jesus. That’s why Jesus didn’t rebuke Mary for doing nothing on Martha’s list (at that moment) but instead called Martha to lay down her to-do list (at least for a time) so that she too might receive that which (unlike a clean house or warm meal) could never be taken away from her!
So, yes, Martha flunked what should be a no brainer question: “Whose to-do list is more important: God’s or yours?”
How many times have I flunked the answer to that “no-brainer” question? Worried-and-distracted-by-many-things wasn’t the middle name given to me by my parents, but it rightly could have been. And, yes, I can proudly defend many of those things by pointing out that they are attending to God-given callings at home, church, seminary, and community.
But no matter how many large and legitimate things may be vying for hegemony on top of my to-do list on any given day of my life, do you know what is #1 on Jesus’ to-do list on that day? It is this: “Speak my life-giving Word to shatter the proud heart of Rich Worried-and-Distracted-by-Many-Things Gurgel so that he can find again the goodness of my saving and empowering grace that cannot be taken away from him” (who unbeknownst to him is about to face trials and challenges he hasn’t even begun to worry about yet!).
How important to know that unless Jesus tends to my heart on a regular basis I will soon be of little godly use to anyone or anything on my to-do list. How wonderful to know that on any given day there is nothing Jesus more delights to do than to draw my heart to his saving embrace.
Sometimes, when he knows best, my dear Lord Jesus even throws in extra bonuses to remind me what blessings are mine when his to-do list trumps mine. Sometimes, while my to-do list cools its heels, things fall off the list because others have figured out they didn’t really need me to solve an issue (I am not irreplaceable!). Sometimes, perplexing problems suddenly open up with answers from the wisdom of what was just pondered in the Scriptures (he still knows how to give wisdom generously to all without finding fault! James 1:5). And at still other times, he simply teaches me that he still knows how to take care of things at the end of the day quite well, thank you, when I must once again at the end of the day entrust into his more-than-capable hands “all [my] unfinished tasks…unresolved problems…and unfulfilled hopes.” It is there that he gently schools me to grasp more clearly that “only what [he] blesses will prosper” (Christian Worship New Service Settings, 56).
Thank you Lord Jesus, for your patient seeking to accomplish your #1 to-do in my heart and life. Teach me, win me, woo me, to pause from my to-do’s regularly so that you can teach, and woo, and win my heart again and again through your Word!
Is God’s to-do list more important than mine? Yes. Yes, it is. Even though now I say that only by faith. In eternity, I will finally thank God wholeheartedly for that reality!