Avoiding the Tyranny of the Urgent.

Avoiding the Tyranny of the Urgent.

Passage: Luke 10:38-42
Service Type:

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.

Let’s look at the scene together…

Traveling with his face set toward Jerusalem.

Sisters to Lazarus and friends of Jesus. 

This story only appears in the book of Luke 

Jesus and his disciples arrive unannounced and she wanted to make it special. 

Also, it was potentially dangerous.

Sisters were totally different in character and temperament. 

Different reactions…


was probably the older… extravagance with all the trimmings, 

“Is there any other way to see it?”


the opposite, the reserved, contemplative, wasn’t one to worry about money…

an observer 

Mary’s example here shows that it’s not for us to decide when God will speak, so we have to be ready when he is. 

You never know when Jesus will show up or when he will speak.

Mary listened to God while Martha worked. 

1. God speaks to those who are listening.

Have you ever prayed and prayed and felt like you couldn’t get an answer?

Slide of a little bird Can God speak to you through a bird?

In Matthew 6:26, Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

40a “But Martha was distracted with much serving.”

It’s the reason she was’t listening to the Lord. 

Sure, it was commendable that she was wanting the event to be spectacular, but it seems in this situation, less might have been more.

Warning: This sign is only a distraction.

Her concern (serving) was a distraction.

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you…”

Psalm 55:22

2. Not all concerns are from God.

I may feel “responsible for a lost relative” or “care for those suffering in a natural disaster” and we may cast these back on God.

The cares which God casts upon us may cheerfully be cast back on him, but not those which we foolishly take on ourselves.

Facebook, What’sApp, Instagram, and the phone

“…we need to be available to everyone all the time.”  

FOMO or Fear of Missing Out. 

To get involved in something that is not mine to handle. 

If you are too busy to spend time with Jesus every day or take at least one day of rest each week, you have taken on burdens that are not from God. 

“The ability to calm your soul and wait before God is one of the most difficult things in the Christian life. Our old nature is restless... the world around us is frantically in a hurry… but a restless heart usually leads to a reckless life.” 

~ Warren Wiersbe, former pastor of Moody Church in Chicago

Application: Repent of taking on things God has not called you to, and quit some things and start again.  

The differences between Martha and Mary…. 

“The sheep in the Lord’s flock have each their own peculiarities. The trees in the Lord’s garden are not all precisely alike. All true servants of God agree in the principal things of religion. All are led by the Spirit. All feel their sins, and all trust in Christ. All repent, all believe, and all are holy, But in minor matters, they often differ widely. Let’s not despise each other on this account. There will be Marthas and there will be Marys in the church until the Lord comes again.”  

~ J.C.Ryles

Be aware of your tendencies and leanings.

3. Great strength can be great weakness. 

Someone HAS to make the meal. 

Not what but why. 

“I am among you as one who serves.” 

~ Jesus Christ

Motive is everything. 

(paint the picture)

Martha in the other room among the dishes, drinks, and food, feeling alone and maybe even a little convicted - her anxiety is building as time goes on…

“And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

She enlists the Lord as a sort of referee. 

Her sister probably wouldn’t listen to her anyway.


Certainly Jesus will take her side… 

Sounds like the older Prodigal or the hard working servants in the 11th hour.

Maybe less would have been more.

Maybe it was fine for her to serve, but not to drag Mary into it too. 

Ask yourself: “Is this really necessary or am I going too far?” 

Why am I so busy?

Urgency Quadrant 

1) the kitchen is on fire 

2) A sale selling something I don’t need or know existed but it ends tomorrow
3) Praying and reading the Bible
4) Hawaii Missionary Hiram Bingham wikipedia

Martha tried to interrupt and became the urgent but not important potential distraction in that moment to Mary.

“41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Quadrant 3 will not be take from her.

The urgent but not important tries to take from the not urgent but important. 

Martha gets the rebuke, but we know that the Lord disciplines those he loves. 

4. Urgency is not always necessary.

He addresses her gently as a friend saying her name twice, “Martha, Martha…” 

Jesus pronounces the correct judgment.


…someday we can thank Martha for it.


Hopefully our attitude can be like the Psalmist who said,

“Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;

    let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;

    let my head not refuse it.”

Psalm 141:5

The Lord’s words:

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things…” 

These are the fruits of unnecessary distractions. 

He sees her heart and tries to help her. 

Why was she serving like that? Jesus calls her actions a distraction.

“Aren't you, like me, hoping that some person, thing, or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being you desire? Don't you often hope: 'May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country or relationship fulfill my deepest desire.' But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run. This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burn-out. This is the way to spiritual death.” 

~ Henri Nouwen

So, instead of going in a million directions at once, we do well to focus on the main thing. 

5. One thing is necessary.

Teach me your way, Lord,

    that I may rely on your faithfulness;

give me an undivided heart,

    that I may fear your name.

Psalm 86:11

How can we respond?

Are my activities nothing more than a distraction?

Am I involved in this from obedience or otherwise?

Urgency Quadrant

(write down everything you do for a day and place it in one of the 4 zones)

“…but one thing is necessary.”

In closing…

“Let this little sentence be continually before the eyes of our minds. 

Let it check us when we are ready to murmur at earthly trials. 

Let it strengthen us when we are tempted to deny our Master on account of persecution. 

Let it caution us when we begin to think too much of the things of this world. 

Let it quicken us when we are disposed to look back like Lot’s wife. 

In all such seasons, let the words of our Lord ring in our ears like a trumpet, and bring us to a right mind. 

‘One thing is needful.’ If Christ is ours, we have all and abound.”

~ J.C.Ryles

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