Jesus had just fed 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Pretty amazing. It’s no wonder the crowds tracked him down the next day:
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.
Isn’t that the truth of human nature? We are led by our cravings, our desires. Paul frequently refers to this as ‘the flesh’. Another way to say that is just doing what comes naturally to us. Jesus is telling the crowds (and us) in this short exchange that the things that come naturally to us will perish. But, he adds, there is something that lasts.
He’s calling for a perspective shift.
Another time he did that was in the home of his friends, Mary and Martha (Luke 10). We’re told that Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she is a little put out that her sister is simply sitting with Jesus, listening to him.
Jesus doesn’t scold Martha, he sees her. He acknowledges all she’s doing, even validating what she was feeling distracted. He says, “You are worried and distracted by many things, there is need of only one thing.” He’s telling her to focus on what’s most important now…the rest is a distraction from what really matters.
Martha wanted to serve the Lord with her actions, but it seems that she was striving to do that at the expense of simply spending time in his presence. And at that moment, just being with him was the most important thing, it’s what would last.
…Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life…
This isn’t an instruction to not do jobs that provide our groceries. Paul, after all, tells the Thessalonians that “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” What it is, is an instruction to hone our focus, to pay attention, to look up.
Sometimes we need to take our eyes off of the busy-ness, off of the tasks (even really important and valuable tasks) and take a moment to look for the eternal. Sometimes the eternal may be in the tasks, perhaps with an attitude shift. Other times the things that matter most might include being still for a time.
I love this poem by John Milton:
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
Milton began going blind in his early 40’s and this poem is a bit of a lament at his fate. Maybe you’ve felt like that before…wondering how you could possibly serve God in the circumstances you find yourself in.
The wisdom of the last few lines of the poem is just the perspective, I think, Jesus was pointing us to. God doesn’t need our gifts, he’s the King. We can serve him in our running around without rest; and we can also serve him in our stillness. The key is our perspective, it’s the considering of the moment rather than simply doing, simply being. Living intentionally.
Jesus wanted the crowd to pursue him because of who he was and how their lives, their eternity, could be changed because of him…not because their stomachs were empty. He was asking them to consider what they were spending their light on.
He wanted Martha to take a breath and just be with him, instead of being distracted by other things (even well-intentioned, important things). She needed to consider if she was, in that moment, spending her light on the eternal.
Today: Consider how your light is spent.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
- Do you find it easy or difficult to be intentional in the way you live? Why do you think that is?
- Are you in a season of serving God with a lot of busyness/tasks or a time of serving him in the standing and waiting? How can you be more purposeful in whichever season you find yourself?
- Consider taking out your calendar or planner and praying over it, asking God to show you ways you can be more intentional in the way you spend your time. (It’s been said that our true priorities will always be seen on the pages of our planners/calendars – how could this work similarly for screen time?).
- Try starting your day with a short prayer asking God to help you focus on what matters that day.