Simply the Bible Blog

Daily Devotion and Podcast

One Thing: Love

“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, NIV)

I just returned from a three-day prayer summit for pastors of the Treasure Valley.  One of our personal assignments was to get alone with God and focus on one of three “one thing” Scriptures. We so easily get distracted with many things that we must often be reminded of the one thing that is important. The exercise was very beneficial and became the keynote for the remainder of the summit. Over the next three days I would like to meditate with you on each of these three verses.

The first one is a favorite of mine simply because it stems from everyday life. Two sisters who loved the Lord and loved each other were of opposite temperaments. Such is often the case in families where one sibling heads one direction, and almost by necessity the other chooses another. Martha was your typical “type A” personality—organized, planning ahead, and paying scrupulous attention to every detail. She loved Jesus, make no mistake, but her love was expressed by doing. Mary, on the other hand, was a good listener. She probably always lived in the shadow of her older, dominant sister. Having befriended and worked with many musicians over the years, Mary strikes me as the artistic type—a gentle spirit that saw the beauty in things and could spend hours in quiet contemplation. She didn’t have to worry about the responsibilities, for Martha took care of that for her, and told her what to do! On this occasion Mary wanted nothing more than to simply sit and listen to Jesus speak. No doubt she figured the wisdom she would glean would be far more important than serving one more appetizer.

It was at this time that Martha’s blood began to boil. The differences in the two sisters’ temperaments were no doubt a continual source of friction between them. But this was no time for Mary to sit down on the job. After all, Martha was depending on her. In an instant she released her pent-up anger like a bursting dam: “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Notice that she wasn’t only upset with Mary but also with the Lord who wasn’t doing anything about it.

Our Lord’s response is a reminder to anyone who has ever felt the inward pressure of duty conflicting with adverse external circumstances. “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.” It is easy for us to imagine the many things over which Martha was worried and upset, but what was the “one thing” that was needed? Our clues are that Mary chose it, and that it would never be taken from her. I’ve heard people say that the “one thing” was sitting at the Lord’s feet. But that would soon be taken from her. Jesus would be crucified, and Mary would no longer be able to sit at His feet—at least not physically. I believe the “one thing” was the love that Mary had for Jesus that was manifested in her desire to simply be what He wanted her to be. It was the one thing that was needed and would never be taken from her, even after Jesus ascended into heaven.

It is so easy for many of us to be like Martha. The pressure of duty constantly calls us, and we quickly yield to it. But to be like Mary and love Jesus, seeking to be what He wants us to be, is real spiritual discipline. Jesus said that this is the better part that will never be taken away from us. Moreover, it is the wellspring of every good thing that comes from our lives. May God help us spend time simply loving Jesus. Then we will bear the fruit of His love in every good work.

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