But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42 AV). These words of admonition from our Savior yet have resonance today. They are instructive in the sense that they point us in the direction of what truly matters in life, and they also call upon us to reevaluate the activities of our lives to see if they are in alignment with His divine will. It is so easy to be distracted by our busyness. This is so because more often than not, it is from our being busy that we derive our purpose and self-worth. However, the million-dollar question is: Is this how God intended it to be?
It is interesting that the scene toward the end of Luke 10 rides on the cusp of one of the central teachings of our Lord. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus encounters a legal expert whose aim was to trip Him up by asking which was the greatest of the commandments. Christ, far ahead of the this expert or lawyer in both knowledge and wisdom, turns the question back on his questioner, eliciting the following response from him: “…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:27 AV). Jesus commends the lawyer for sharing this central truth upon which all the rest of the law depends. Upon sharing the parable of the good Samaritan, illustrating how the love of God is manifested in our love for our fellow man, Luke then presents us with the visitation of Christ to the home of his friends, Mary and Martha, in Bethany. It is during this visit that the attention of readers is pointed back to the importance and centrality of our love for God as the bedrock of Christian life.
Upon Christ’s arrival in their home, the two sisters have starkly different responses. Martha, presumably the elder, is busy prepping food and such like—indeed, the normal things that most people would do when honored with the presence of distinguished guests. Meanwhile, Mary is perched at the feet of Jesus consuming the divine revelatory teaching that flows from the mouth of the God-Man. Understandably, Martha is frustrated with Mary, and even Jesus for that matter. The Common English Bible portrays Martha’s misgivings with interesting language: By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So, Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me” (Luke 10:40 CEB). Note Luke’s record of Jesus’ response: The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41–42 CEB). Christ’s response was not the expected response. For after all, wouldn’t all agree that Martha’s grievances were legitimate? Perhaps the Lord was teaching a higher principal which simply put was: Legitimate activities are not always the most important activities! The Lord said one thing is needful! While multiple things may vie for our attention in this hour of tumult and turmoil, time at the feet of Jesus should always have precedence.
Yours in His Service,
Bishop Lambert W. Gates, Sr.