Only One Thing is Needful
Jesus said only one thing is needful. What is that one thing? Do we still need it today? This story is found in Luke 10:38-42. Here it is in the NIV.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 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!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
“Unfolding His Word” is the theme of my website and my life’s mission. “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130). I love nothing more than sitting at the feet of Jesus and hearing Him unfold (open and reveal) His Word to me, like discovering beautiful treasure folded in a napkin. I love hearing men and women of God expound the Scripture, for it gives light and understanding to this simple woman. It is my desire to always interpret Scripture with Scripture. So, let’s take a few minutes now and unfold this story of Jesus, Martha, and Mary to discover any concealed brilliancy for our lives today.
Jesus, his twelve disciples, and probably others (Matt. 20:29, 27:55) were on their way. Where? Only Jesus knew where He was going. The others were simply on their way following the Way (John 14:6). Jesus knew Martha’s gift was hospitality, and He knew she was a good cook. But cooking for thirteen plus who knows how many others was totally overwhelming to Martha. In addition, her sister, Mary, was absolutely no help sitting at the feet of Jesus doing “nothing.” Resentment swelled.
Martha obviously missed the bigger picture. To say Martha was distracted was putting it mildly. Martha was over-the-top anxious, nervous, frustrated, irritated, and angry. Jesus added “worried and upset about many things” to the mix. However, Martha simply wanted everything to be perfect for Jesus. Was that such a bad thing? No, but it wasn’t the most important thing at that moment. Jesus cared deeply for Martha. He didn’t scold her. He was very loving toward her. Jesus knew Martha loved Him and wanted to serve Him with excellence. There would be many opportunities for that in the future. But for now, Jesus was in the house, and that’s all that really mattered. Mary chose the one thing needed—time spent sitting at Jesus’ feet, gazing into His eyes, drinking in every word—and she refused to be “distracted” by details of lesser importance.
We all face many distractions, multiple voices, and work every day, outside in the world and inside our home. However, only one thing is needful, and that will never change. We get to choose where we place our focus, but know this: Nothing else in life will ever be quite right until we spend time at the feet of Jesus. We can accomplish more and with a better attitude when we’ve spent time with Jesus—listening, praying, worshiping, putting Him first. Time spent with Jesus will not be taken away from us by anyone except ourselves. Therefore, be like Mary today. Choose what is better than anything else. Only one thing is needful today.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).
A side-note to ministers and teachers of the gospel: Are you doing the one thing that is needful? Examine yourself and be honest in your evaluation. Repent and move closer to His feet. Faithfully practice what you preach! Remain diligent in self-discipline. Paul warns us in 1 Cor. 9:27. “No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).