The One Thing Necessary

It’s an annual visit. A yearly encounter. Every twelve months for the past many years I get to drop in and be reminded of the one thing necessary.

Martha’s doing what Martha does best — welcoming Jesus into her home, wanting to honor Jesus with her “much serving.” She’s the hostess with the mostest. Door always open, table always set, no effort spared in putting on a feast. And yet, every year, I’m reminded that “much serving” can result in being much “distracted.” Over-occupied. Too busy. Wanting so to please Jesus she fails to enjoy Jesus. Wanting so to give to Jesus she fails to receive from Jesus. Oh, she’s doing a good thing, but not the one thing necessary. Oh, how I identify with Martha.

But every time I drop into the sisters’ house I’m challenged by Mary.

And [Martha] had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching.

(Luke 10:39 ESV)

Martha’s scurrying, Mary’s sitting. Martha’s all over the house getting things ready. Mary is as near as she can get to Jesus listening. Martha’s distracted with giving, Mary’s determined to be receiving. Martha is welcoming Jesus as a servant, Mary is learning from Jesus as a disciple. Both are examples. Both normative examples of what loving Jesus should look like. But serving can lead to being “anxious and troubled.” Thus, sitting is the one thing necessary.

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.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

(Luke 10:40-42 ESV)

The good portion. That’s what Mary had chosen. Serving is a big part of following Jesus, but sitting is the better part.

Serving without sitting has a way of becoming chaotic. Sitting maintains the calm.

Serving without sitting runs the danger of focusing on self and then saying things we really don’t mean to say — did Martha really think Jesus didn’t care? Sitting at the feet of Jesus engages our eyes and ears as the primary sensing devices, curtailing our tongues from uttering foolish things.

Serving Jesus is exemplary. But sitting at the feet of Jesus, the good portion, is the one thing necessary.

Thanks ladies, for the visit. Martha, keep on but keep focused. Mary, shove over and make some room . . .

By God’s grace. For God’s glory.

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