A little side note before I fully begin: I find that almost every time God gives me a message to speak, I’m the one that needs to hear that message more than anybody else. I end up preaching to myself mostly; it’s a real blessing when anyone else can relate to what God is putting on my heart. That’s all, so here we go.
Today I’ve been meditating on a simple yet profound truth found in the teachings of Jesus in Luke 10:38-42. I’m sure that most people reading this have heard this story many times, but I can’t seem to put it away so I’m trusting that it’s timely for someone. Here’s the story:
“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!” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”
I want to focus on a small section of this text that pops off of the page for me. Jesus says, “…but only one thing is needed.” I looked up synonyms for the word “needed” and here’s what came up: essential, neccessary, required, vital. This story in Luke is focused on the preparations for a dinner, but it’s a microcosm of how people live their lives. I find that it’s terribly easy for me to get concerned about many things. There is a great deal going on at any given time and my life has a plethora of moving parts. There are different responsibilities, areas of influence, and roles that all take time and energy. I confess that in reading this Biblical text, I’m convicted about my priorities. There is so much work to be done, and often it feels in the moment like the best thing to do is to give all of my energy to the seemingly urgent tasks at hand.
Fundamentally, I feel that we operate as if spending time with God is a bonus. In this performance-based society it seems that our default position is that we treat spending time with Jesus as a luxury to be enjoyed once we get our work done… ‘If I can just get these few things on my to-do list done, then I can afford to sit at the feet of Jesus and listening to what He has to say.’ Unfortunately, that view is completely backwards. We can’t afford to miss this time with Him.
This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t work hard. There are a heap of scriptures that talk about the importance of giving our best effort and working with all of our might… “Run in such a way as to get the prize,” … “work as if you’re working for the Lord,” … and so on. But what Jesus is saying here requires a foundational shift in the way we hold our relationship to the work we do. Instead of quiet time with the Lord being a bonus, it should be the work that comes second. Jesus says, “only one thing is NEEDED.” I often catch myself saying things like “I have to _______ (fill in the blank)”. But that’s not true at all. Those are things that I want to do, or that I feel carry some importance, but there’s very little in this world that I truly have to do. Only one thing is required. Only one thing is neccessary. Only one thing is vital. Even with all the things we’re worried about, spending time at the feet of Jesus is the one thing we cannot go without. Everything else can wait.
What I find interesting, too, is that both of the women in the story were technically spending some time with Jesus. It’s just that the nature of their time spent was much different. I can think of plenty of times in my life where I was “spending time with God” as I was on the run trying to get everything done. I figured, ‘God knows how busy I am. He’ll understand.’ In this way, I would ask Jesus to be present in what I had already decided that I should be doing and to bless it rather than actually listening for His instructions for what He wanted me to do. Martha had the King of the Universe in her living room and sweeping the floor came first for her. It could be that we’re more worried about impressing Jesus than with enjoying Him.
He doesn’t want our leftovers; He wants our best. He wants quality time where we can soak in His great love and to fellowship with Him uninterrupted. Turn off your phone, close the door, and hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the handle. Our heart longs for deep intimacy with Him, listening to Him as He comforts us with His Words.
The late Peter Drucker once said, “Efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness is doing the right things.” Jesus makes it clear what the right thing is. Again, only one thing is needed. Choose what’s best and it will not be taken away from you.
Before I forget; speaking of preparations… Thank you to everyone who came out and made my Very Belated Birthday party so incredible. I’m overwhelmed by the love and support that I feel from my family and friends. I truly am a blessed man. God is so good to me. I love you all more than you know and more than I could possibly show.