Category Archives: too busy

The irony of Agathos not kalos

I have started 2018 by doing something different—reading a devotional book. The book in question is The Pleasure of His Companyby Dutch Sheets and I have ben greatly encouraged and stimulated by it.

Sheets spends three chapters talking about Martha and Mary and the incident related in Luke 10:38-42,

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

For the sake of simplicity I shall quote some of Sheets own words regarding one aspect of this passage and allow the Holy Spirit to challenge and convict you.

The passage says that Mary “chose” the right activity. Most of us don’t believe, or don’t consciously take the time to consciously consider, that we always have the ability to choose the simple devotion demonstrated by Mary. But we do.

After informing Mary that only one thing was really necessary, Jesus referred to Mary’s choice as “good.” That seems really lame until the Greek word used is really understood. There are two Greek words that could have been used, agathos and kalos. Kalos means something is well made and looks good. It is even used for “beauty” or “handsome”; in our day we use the term “good looking”…The word stops short, however, of suggesting practical usefulness. A good example of kalos would be a beautiful picture—it looks good but has no practical value.

When a word is needed however, that adds the concept ion usefulness or benefit, agathos is chosen. To fully convey this aspect, agathos is often translated “good works.” Essentially, kalos is good looks, agathos is good works. Jesus said Mary chose agathos.

The irony of this is astounding. The person doing nothing was credited with doing the “good works,” not the person doing all the good works! …Christ was saying, “You look good Martha, but your busyness won’t produce the good works you’re looking for. Mary chose that which will enable her to truly do good works, and her fruit will remain.”

As one who gives his life to full-time ministry in the church, I am terrified by this passage. It shows me that I can be very busy in ministry without it producing genuine and lasting fruit. I can look good, without really doing good.