During my graduate studies, I, like many others in seminary, took a job working early mornings for a delivery company. Each day, I drove a company vehicle to the airport to await the airplanes full of documents and packages for delivery. The major responsibility of my daily trip was to secure several bags of documents with a big, red sticker labeled “priority.” These documents were to be prioritized for delivery amidst all the other responsibilities for the day. Some days, however, these documents were misplaced and the priority was overwhelmed by other responsibilities.

At times, we might desire our lives to come with big, red stickers labeled “priority” because of how easily priorities can be misplaced. In a short, but well-known narrative of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42), two believing sisters gained insight into the one ultimate necessity for the Christian life, to commune with Jesus. 

The narrative, which begins with a warm reception, finds the first sister, Martha, distracted by all her preparations to “properly” welcome the incarnate, living God into her living room. Despite Martha’s admirable service for Jesus, Mary is commended for seizing the opportunity to sit at the Lord’s feet and hear the Word of God. In all her distraction, Martha is pulled away from the true priority of being with Jesus and the joy of her service deteriorates into a disgruntled attitude. The passage records Jesus kindly inviting her to refocus her priorities to spend time with Him and hear God’s Word.

Even now, as a pastor serving in full-time ministry, I regularly sense the ease of all the preparations of ministry choking out the time spent with Jesus. Therefore, a couple practical points of application from this text are helpful in regards to life in ministry.

Beware of performance, merit-based ministry

While service comes from a relationship with Jesus, it should never come at the expense of a relationship with Jesus. We serve not for a relationship with Jesus but from a relationship with Jesus. When we fall into performing in ministry, the attitude in our service will soon sour from joy to disgruntlement. Furthermore, the worry and anxiety that flow from a performance, merit-based ministry do not come when tethered to the Savior seeking Him first. 

Sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His Word

While there are many places to spend your time in ministry, even the best and most commendable of priorities must yield to your relationship with Jesus. Over the past couple of years, many commendable and good preparations in ministry have been thwarted by Covid-19, but the good part is that my time with Jesus cannot be taken from me. 

As Matthew Perman voiced, “You need to have an overarching, passionate, God-centered aim to your life – an overarching goal and message that flows from your mission and directs the priorities of your life.” [1] This quote cannot be true without the ultimate priority being to come and sit at the feet of the Savior and listen to His Word.

[1] Matthew Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms The Way You Get Things Done (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan), 178.