I recently got a new phone, and it was an unexpected adventure. First, I decided to change carriers, which involved being on hold for long periods of time and then porting my old phone number to my new carrier. I felt like I was on a maritime expedition or in the midst of a Harry Potter journey. But more than my port situation, it was harder than I expected to choose between an Android and an Apple phone. I’ve had an Android phone for the last four years, but the people I know who have iPhones (made by Apple) often get a peaceful, settled look on their faces when I ask what they like about their phones. “The phone is so intuitive, it seems to know what I’m thinking,” said one friend. “It makes technology seem simple and easy,” said another. “I never have to deal with figuring out problems on my own because Apple has such amazing customer support,” said another. “I feel like my iPhone is an extension of my body,” is another comment I’ve heard, though that one made me slightly uncomfortable.
Phones that run an Android operating system, on the other hand, are sometimes known for having bugs, not always running smoothly, and needing their users to work harder to understand and fix problems. Not surprisingly, they also tend to be cheaper than iPhones. Admittedly, this is a gross oversimplification of the comparison—many people love their Android phones, made by companies like Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, LG, and more recently, Google. Although the iPhone tends to be the most recognizable and popular smartphone, improvements to devices that run an Android operating system have given the iPhone more competition in recent years.
I know what you’re thinking. How does this have to do with Mary and Martha? We recently looked at Jesus’ visit to these sisters and his declaration that “Mary has chosen what is better” (vs. 42) by sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him.
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42, NIV).
I would like to suggest that Mary’s faith can be likened to an iPhone made by Apple, and Martha’s faith to an Android phone—let’s say a Samsung. But before you Apple fans rest on your laurels from being endorsed by the Savior of the world, read on.
Because I am not a tech person, I don’t know exactly why having an Android operating system means more bumps in the road, more hoops to jump through, and more issues that necessitate my learning about my phone rather than simply sitting back and enjoying all of its amazing features. In my experience (I chose a Google phone, and thus an Android), I was trying to get some of the apps on my old phone to transfer to my new phone. I read how to do this on my carrier’s website, and it basically said this:
- If you’re an iPhone user, download our transfer app, and you’ll have everything you need.
- If you’re not an iPhone user, follow this list of instructions that look complicated and are actually even more complicated than they appear.
The following is lifted from my carrier’s “how to activate your phone” webpage, and it took me approximately six hours and three phone calls to my tech wizard brother to figure out what it all meant.
On your phone please go to the following menu:
Menu > Settings> Wireless & Networks > Mobile Networks > Access Point Names
Proxy: Not set
Port: Not set
Username: Not set
Password: Not set
Server: Not set
MMS proxy: proxy.mobile.att.net
MMS port: 80
Authentication Type: None
APN type: default,mms,supl
APN protocol IPv4
Maybe it’s obvious why I think Mary’s faith is like an Apple phone. Sometimes we get so caught up in the details of what needs to get done—like Martha’s preparations—that we neglect to sit with Jesus and simply listen. We can’t hear Jesus because there is so much to do, and in our self-pity and self-importance, we insist that it all must be done before we can focus on anything else—even on Jesus! From what I’ve heard, an iPhone is simple for the user, letting you focus on your goal of actually using your phone rather than on the inner workings of Access Point Networks and every other technological necessity that needs to be in place before the phone can work. Similarly, it is often important to have a simple faith, one that moves forward in trust that God is in control rather than having to examine and unearth every question and concern that comes up in life.
At the same time—and I say this as a proud Android user—examining and understanding our faith (and our phones) is important too. Because it was somewhat difficult to get my phone up and running, I know it much better than many iPhone owners know their phones. I’ve been deep into settings and menus that explain the inner workings of networks—networks that you with your user-friendly Apple product will never see, let alone understand. And in Christian faith, it is important at times to focus not on simple belief but on delving into difficult questions so that we may more fully comprehend and communicate what we believe.
And so my comparison does break down—both in faith and in phone use, it’s important to recognize that there are different approaches, both helpful and useful to the believer (or the cell phone user). Examining our passage one more time, we see this in verse 40: “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”
The meaning of this passage is often overlooked: the problem is not that Martha has concerns and preparations to attend to, rather than having Mary’s clear and simple focus on her Lord. The problem is that she is distracted by those concerns and preparations. Jesus says that Mary chose what is better, not that she innately had a faith that was better.
We can have different kinds of faith in Jesus—indeed, faith expression is often influenced by personality, and some people have a naturally intuitive faith while others have a faith built block by block on apologetics and a love of deep questions. Both of these faith experiences are valid and beautiful. Jesus is not telling Martha to have a different kind of faith in this passage; He is telling her to choose to be with Him, and this directive could just have easily applied to Mary had she chosen over Jesus whatever was distracting her that day. The issue, therefore, is a matter of focusing on Jesus instead of being distracted by all that surrounds and so easily consumes us. High on this list, for most of us, is our phones, no matter what kind.