Only One Thing Needed

“Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

When Jesus came to visit Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, the sisters were busily engaged in preparing to receive their Lord and His disciples. Luke recorded that when Jesus arrived, Mary knew it was time to put her doing down and sit at the feet of her Lord. Martha, on the other hand, was distracted by all the work to be done, giving us much-needed insight into her heart — and our own hearts as well. Martha had lost sight of her Savior because she shifted her focus to her service. In serving her Lord, she was actually serving herself, which provides a stark warning to you and me today: Even service to our Savior can become self-serving!

We can get so busy doing stuff for our Savior that we neglect to spend time with our Savior. Martha was encumbered by all of her doing and frustrated that Mary had stopped helping with the preparations. Finally, Martha snapped, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” (Luke 10:40).

Jesus’ response amounted to a gentle rebuke.

“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'” (Luke 10:41-42)

In the ancient cultural context, when a name was repeated, it was a sign of relationship, friendship, and intimacy. Jesus was not upset with Martha, even though Martha seemed a bit upset with Him. In essence Jesus was saying to Martha, “I appreciate all that you are doing to make preparations for our visit. Hospitality is a good thing, and we are to show it to everyone. But if we are not careful, our hospitality may cease being about those we are serving, because we are actually serving ourselves.”

I can personally testify to this truth in my life as a pastor. There have been too many times when my service has been self-serving. I was feeling good about myself, not striving to empty myself to make someone else feel good. We are not immune to self-service, even when we are serving our Savior.

How is it with you? Are you more like Martha? Or Mary? I believe that if we truly love our Lord, we all have a bit of both of them in us. We want to serve to the best of our ability, but we also need to know there is a time for serving . . . and a time for sitting. Our Lord is telling us directly that it is better for us to sit at His feet and absorb His love, grace, and truth, than to stay busy simply for the sake of being busy.

Have you chosen what is better? May this “better choice” be the confession of our lives!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!


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