The story in Luke 10:38 (NIV) is familiar. Jesus visits the home of Martha and Mary. Martha is working to prepare a meal. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus “listening to what he said.” Martha is exasperated by Mary’s inattention to the task at hand and blurts out: “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Martha’s distress gives Jesus the chance to provide another significant principle of scripture: “Martha, Martha…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.” Unlike other principles we’ve identified, we don’t know exactly what the one thing is.
Generally speaking, however, Mary was concerned with the bread of life, while Martha was concerned with food for a meal. Martha was trying to be hospitable, but Mary was more discerning about the spiritual opportunity before her.
When we are pulled back and forth by something that distracts us from Jesus’ spiritual qualities, we’ve gone too far. In today’s world, it happens often. We’re busy, busy, busy — for good reasons we think. Indeed, our busyness produces good works. In Matthew 19:16, the rich young ruler was like that, but as in Martha’s case, one thing was needed.
Jesus visited the home of Martha and Mary again in John 11:17-44, because their brother Lazarus had died. Martha met Jesus as he was coming. Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life…Do you believe this?” Martha replied: “Yes, Lord…I believe that you are the Messiah…” She had found the one thing she needed: a confession of faith.
The one thing needed is not exactly the same for everyone. What is it for you?