Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”Luke 10:38-42
Are you a Martha? I sure am. I am anxious and troubled about many things, from my long-term future to my daily to-do list. Type A to a fault, owner of not only a planner but also a literal written-out four-year plan, I load responsibility after responsibility onto my figurative plate until it feels like I am juggling ten courses on a soup spoon. So I’m writing this not from a place of having it all together – far from it! In fact, I need to remind myself of this daily, so much so that it’s the message that pops up with my morning alarm.
Of everything on our cluttered to-do lists, Jesus says, one thing is necessary. One thing! And that one thing is not the job that pays your rent and puts food in the pantry. It’s not the paper that’s due in a few hours. It’s not your cluttered inbox, your unread texts, your laundry, or the favor you promised a friend. It’s not even serving others or showing hospitality.
The one thing that is necessary is the one thing Mary chose: to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to His teaching.
Yes, God has called us to show hospitality to siblings and strangers alike (Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:2, 1 Peter 4:9), and it’s clear that we are to be doers of the Word, not hearers only (James 1:22-25). But doing ought to be rooted in hearing, and serving ought to be rooted in stillness before our God.
In her worry about many things, Martha lost sight of the one thing that is necessary: listening to Jesus Christ. So He rebuked her, wanting her to loosen her anxious grip on doing for Him and prioritize simply being in His presence.
If I’m being honest, I’ve lost sight of this one thing in recent days. I have books to read and notes to take and posts to write and groceries to buy and bags to pack, and in the midst of it all I’ve found myself anxious and worried about many things, including how to serve others best. Yet it’s precisely when our to-do lists become overwhelmingly long that this reminder is so needed, because what Jesus asks is the opposite of a to-do list.
He doesn’t require X minutes of devotional time, X chapters read by the end of this week, X hours of community service or X souls won for the Lord. Instead, the one thing that is necessary for us today, this week, and for the rest of our lives is to sit at Jesus’s feet and listen to his teaching – not that everything else should fall by the wayside, but that everything else should fall in line, second to the one necessity of knowing Him better.