One of the blessings of living in an affluent society such as the United States is that we have many options to choose from. We have options for what career to pursue, for the food that we eat, for the luxury items in our homes, and for the friends that we have. We are not stuck with one option, and most of the time that is a good thing.
One of the curses of living in an affluent society is the choices that we have. The result of all these choices is that many of us in the United States are overwhelmed with our lives. We lack the proper tools needed to navigate the thousands of choices that life offers us. We are also ill equipped to deal with the consequences of those choices.
On the outside it appears like we are living the “American Dream”, but on the inside our hearts and minds are cluttered with worry, fear, hopelessness, and envy. Instead of living the full and abundant life that Jesus promised his followers, we live lives of dissatisfaction and desperation.
If Christianity is true, then it must provide truth that speaks into this reality.
15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. (Ephesians 5:15-17; NLT)
In this passage the Apostle Paul tells us that followers of Jesus need to live differently from the rest of the world. How do we do that?
Paul says we live differently by living with wisdom. The wisdom that we need comes from Scripture. As we study the Bible and are guided by the Holy Spirit we receive wisdom that helps us make sense of our responsibilities, our finances, and our relationships. Wisdom that is needed to truly live the abundant life that Jesus promised to us.
This wisdom begins with our priorities.
38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42; NLT)
It is important that we understand the cultural context of the situation. Martha was doing exactly what culture told her to do. In that culture it was impossible for a woman to be a true disciple, their place was the place of service, not learning. If she wanted to support Jesus in his ministry, if she wanted to be fulfill the cultural expectation of hospitality, then she had to serve Jesus.
Martha came to Jesus upset with Mary because Mary did not follow the cultural expectation. I can imagine that Martha wanted to spend time at the feet of Jesus too, but she felt like she couldn’t because the culture prioritized service over discipleship for her.
Jesus praised Mary for her actions, not because the service was unimportant, but because learning from Jesus was more important. There would be time to get supper ready, but now was the time for listening to Jesus.
We live in a culture of misplaced priorities. In order to have the full and abundant life that Jesus calls us to live means that we properly order our priorities. At the top of that list, the one priority that will help order all the rest, is to be a disciple of Jesus.
A disciple is not a mere student trying to gain insight from a teacher. A true disciple is one who wants to become like the teacher. They want their life to be a reflection of the teacher’s life.
This means a disciple will learn from the teacher. We see this all throughout the Gospels. Jesus spent regular time teaching his disciples truth and how to apply that truth to their lives. Learning is the foundation of what it means to be a disciple. But it should be noted that learning is not just about knowing information. Learning is also about applying that information to your life.
Not only does a disciple learn, but the disciple also goes. If you read the beginning of Luke 10 you will notice that Jesus sends out 72 disciples to preach and to heal (in other words to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed). To be a disciple is to surrender to the teacher’s authority. If the teacher asks you to do something your do it. If he asks you to go somewhere you go. Obedience is a key part to being a disciple.
I like what Andrew Murray wrote in Absolute Surrender:
If you are not willing to sacrifice time get alone with him, and to give him time every day to work in you, and to keep up the link of connection between you and himself, he cannot give you that blessing of his unbroken fellowship. Jesus Christ asks you to live in close communion with him. Let every heart say: “O, Christ, it is this I long for, it is this I choose.” And he will gladly give it to you. (Humility and Absolute Surrender, p. 157)
To be a disciple will require sacrifice. It will require the sacrifice of our time as we seek to spend time learning from Jesus. It will require the sacrifice of the cultural expectation of busyness to obey Jesus in how we live our lives.
This is what we need to remember: Jesus is the priority that brings our lives into balance. When being a disciple of Jesus is our top priority, he reminds us of what is truly important, he points us to the activities that we need to do, he gives us a new insight on the purpose of money, he guides us in our relationships, and he brings clarity to the reality of our lives.
Our hearts are cluttered with distractions: responsibilities, debts, fears, worries, envy, and hopelessness. In short, we do not feel like we are living the abundant life that Jesus promised. The answer is that we need to go to Jesus and let him guide our lives.