What do you think of this Chinese character for ‘listen’?
I think it's insightful.
On the left is ‘ear’ – the physical organ for hearing. To the right is this combination:
you + eyes + undivided attention + heart.
Does this describe how you listen to God?
Let’s revisit the scene in the home of Martha and Mary. Click here and take a moment to read Luke 10:38-42.
In the last post we followed the hectic agenda of Martha – a negative model for listening.
Mary’s posture is described simply:
“Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”
The narrator refers to Jesus as “the Lord” (10:39). This shift of language from “Jesus” to “Lord” is significant.
That Jesus is Lord means that he transcends every other ‘voice’ speaking into our lives. He has priority over culture’s demands, over personality’s inclinations, over self-oriented preferences – he, and he alone, is the Lord.
What are the implications of this for each of us?
We hear thousands of voices every day. Family, friends, and strangers; teachers, supervisors, and customers; commercials, movies, and lyrics – myriads competing for us to listen.
Recognizing that Jesus is your lord means that his voice is above all others. What he says has priority.
Four further factors
Jesus speaks about Mary’s posture in these terms:
“one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (10:42 ESV).
Here are four things Jesus says about those who listen well to him.
1. “One thing is necessary.”
Lots of things make life better, or easier, or more fun – but “one thing is necessary.” This “one thing” is indispensable; it is like water for fish. What is it?
Jesus gives us a clue as he points us to Mary’s ‘posture’. What is it about Mary that identifies the “one thing … necessary”? It is this: “she is fixed on … Jesus, and his word.”
Take a moment to acknowledge what Jesus is saying here and what that means for you. It is necessary to listen to Jesus.
2. “Mary has chosen …”
Mary had been intentional in choosing to sit at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
There were many pressures working against Mary’s choice. Picture Martha bustling to prepare a meal: cutting, mixing, cooking. Perhaps she nudged Mary to get her attention, or sighed dramatically to lay on some guilt – then she complained to Jesus.
The pressures working against us are no less. Consider such things as the demands and expectations of our culture of ‘busyness’, of relationships and events, or of a personality of ‘driven-ness’. These threaten to distract us from listening to the voice of our Lord. Unless we are intentional about choosing a ‘posture’ like Mary it will not happen – everything else will fill our time and attention.
How will you choose to listen to Jesus?
3. “Mary has chosen the good portion …”
This ‘posture’ of listening to Jesus is “good.” Some may criticize it as lazy, or unconstructive, or even bad – but Jesus says it is good. It is beneficial.
In the first instance, the benefit of this ‘posture’ is experienced by the person who chooses it. Yet, inevitably that benefit enriches the lives of others.
Expect the divine benefits of choosing to listen to Jesus.
4. “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
What Mary received endured.
I recall a time when I was studying for some university assignment late into the night. The whole day had been so busy, and I had not chosen the ‘necessary thing’. By default, all my energies had been poured into other things that wouldn’t last long – perhaps only a few decades. That day I had made a bad trade.
Know that you receive from Jesus as you listen to him. Whatever you receive in this 'posture' will never be taken away from you.
Some action items
What are your 'take aways' from this post? What are you learning from Mary’s posture?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- How can you choose this 'posture'? Are you intentional about sitting silently and listening attentively to the Lord (you + eyes + undivided attention + heart)?
- How do you listen to God? For instance, as you slow down and read Scripture prayerfully, are you expecting to hear his words for you? Click here for “Five Questions for Reading [or, Listening] Impact.”
- What kinds of benefits do you receive as you listen well to God? Do you experience His love and acceptance? His wisdom and guidance? His correction and encouragement?
What else can you add?
 Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 1997), 437.
Photo credit: Image downloaded from the website of the United States Department of State: http://www.state.gov/m/a/os/65759.htm (accessed October 22, 2015).
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