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There’s this bakery in the California desert town of Bishop, deservedly famous for their sheepherder bread, and remarkable also for a plaque that welcomes you at the door. It’s a lovely porcelain thing, with an interestingly chosen verse. Jesus’ words in Matthew 3:4, Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Headed for the bread aisle? Give thought.
Indeed it calls us to give thought to pretty near everything we do in life.
Remember the Bible story? Jesus is at Mary and Martha’s house, mealtime is approaching — or should be. Martha is in the kitchen struggling with the meal, Mary sits with Jesus, taking in his every word. Martha is not happy.
Lord, she says, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things. But only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”
Where did Martha go wrong? Notice: Jesus didn’t go into the kitchen and pull her away from the sink with a rebuke. Also: Martha wasn’t at the sink humming hymns, cheerfully serving the Lord according to her gift. She was seething: angry at her sister, angry at Jesus, feeling sorry for herself.
So, Martha’s problem? Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. We’re spiritual beings, created in God’s image, created to live forever in fellowship with him. As such, bread we bake or buy isn’t the fundamental necessity. We may protest: I have to eat, don’t I? Let Jesus reply, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Who say, I have to obey God, don’t I? — as if that consideration trumped every other.
But don’t we in fact need that baked product? Again Jesus replies, Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Our Father knows our body with its needs, and his having it on his list can allow us to take it off of the top of ours. To say it another way, sheep ensure their own protection and nourishment not by running out after them, but by sticking close to the shepherd. Mary, in our story, was getting to better know the Shepherd. Martha, it seems, could have used more of that.
Or maybe she’d just let her spiritual blood sugar get low? How do we keep ours up, so as not to let little things get the best of us? Two things that simply cannot coexist: gratitude and self-pity. Maybe we don’t know Martha well enough to state her grounds for gratitude. But we, living on this side of Calvary’s cross, most certainly know ours. God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We all need to live in the humility and grace of the gospel — in the shadow of the cross.
Steve Lazicki is an associate pastor at Bethel Ridge Church in Faribault.
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