BY CHAD BIRD
If I were the devil, I wouldn’t just entice believers to do bad things. We’re experts at that anyway. I’d strongly encourage them to do more for God. Just a gentle nudge in that direction. And before you know it, some of them would be so hog-wild about doing stuff for Jesus that they probably wouldn’t even notice that their “Jesus” was the spitting image of their own ego.
This tactic works well in America. We are a can-do, must-do, git ‘er done kind of people. We pride ourselves on climbing ladders and fattening résumés. And in the church, who do we celebritize? Men and women who build spiritual empires. The super saints who out-mega-church each other. The Kardashians of Christianity. And we imagine that if we want to be on God’s honor roll, or at least get a passing grade, we’d better get busy impressing him, too. Jesus is watching. He’s counting. He’s waiting to be wowed. Dear Christian, what have you done for him today?
You’ve probably done too much for Jesus. Like Martha.
Martha is the patron saint of busy believers. When Jesus showed up at her house for dinner, she was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. There was so much to do for Jesus! Her sister, Mary, however, was useless. She just sat there like a bump on a log at the feet of Jesus. As if hanging on his every word was the most important thing in the world. It was disgusting. Such laziness.
Even more insulting was that Jesus didn’t tell Mary to get off her butt and do something. He was actually enabling such inactivity. Finally, when Martha’s feathers were ruffled enough, she had to remind Jesus of how much work there was to be done for him: “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me,” (Luke 10:40). After all, what had Mary done for Jesus?
Jesus looked up at this busy believer and burst her bubble: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her,” (10:41).
If there’s anything we need to work harder at in modern Christianity, it’s doing nothing. Hurry up and sit down and shut up. Turn off the oven, Martha. Quit mopping the floor. Don’t set the table. Just come over, sit alongside your sister, and make yourself into a sponge as Jesus opens his mouth and words of living water stream forth.
We have forgotten that the more we try to do for Jesus, the more we get in his way of doing things for us. If we’re constantly jacking our jaws about God stuff, we can’t listen to him. If we’re always busy using our hands to build spiritual kingdoms, we can’t open them as beggars to receive the gifts of Jesus.
He doesn’t say, “Be busy and know that I am impressed,” but “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Jesus is the God who doesn’t ask you how much you’ve done for him. He tells you how much he’s done for you. He has built an entire kingdom for you from the simple wood of a blood-stained cross. Every little word he speaks is more important than any book someone writes on his behalf. He isn’t sitting around with a ledger in his lap, tallying up how much we’ve done this day to curry his favor. He’s beckoning us to sit at his feet, with Mary, and listen, learn, love his word and his gifts.
Of course, there’s plenty of good to do in this world—good we do for our family, friends, and enemies. But all the good we may do is not the good that matters most. What matters most, what is of the utmost importance, is recognizing the wonderful plan that God has for each of our lives.
That wonderful plan is simply this: to crucify and resurrect us with Jesus. To divorce us from our works and our doing, and to marry us to the works and doing of Jesus. To baptize us into that body that bore our sins, and to resurrect us to a brand new life in the living body of Jesus.
There, in him, we rest in what he has accomplished for us. Christian, Christian, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. Let us sit beside Mary, listen to Jesus, and receive his love.
What have you done for Jesus today? Nothing. And in doing nothing, all has been done.
Chad is an author and speaker who's devoted to honest Christianity that addresses the raw realities of life with the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. Chad has served as a pastor and assistant professor of OT theology, contributed hymns to the Lutheran Service Book, and cohosts the podcast “Forty Minutes in the OT.” He holds Master's degrees from Concordia Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College. In addition to writing the books, Christ Alone and The Infant Priest, he has contributed articles to Modern Reformation, The Federalist, Concordia Pulpit Resources, and other journals. His new book with Eerdmans, Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul, is now available for pre-order at Amazon. His writings and other resources can be found at his website, chadbird.com. Chad and his wife, Stacy, enjoy life together in the Texas Hill Country.