“Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her.”
~ Luke 10:41-42 (VOICE)
I’ve read this story countless times now, trying to understand just what the Lord meant when He bluntly told me, Don’t be a Martha. Every time I do, the final verse intrigues me.
“Mary has chosen that One Thing…”
It makes me think of the movie “City Slickers”. (You’ll have to pardon the gross use of movie analogies here lately. Sadly, my Mommy-Brain is reduced to operating via old song lyrics and movie quotes.)
Remember when Curly tells Mitch what the secret to life is? He holds up his finger and says, “One Thing.”
“What’s The One Thing?”
“That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”
That’s how I feel every time I read this verse. What’s The One Thing, Lord?
I’ve always felt living my life for Jesus was The One Thing. Unashamed-of-The-Gospel, Do-the-Right-Thing, This-Little-Light-of-Mine living. Gimme a list of Do’s and Don’ts for Jesus and I’m good to go.
Maybe this comes from my missionary baptist heritage or maybe Talking and Doing are just my nature. Regardless, these are my comfort zones; they give me a sense of accomplishment and control.
But The Lord has recently given me some very conflicting directives.
The most uncomfortable things for me?
NOT TALKING AND NOT DOING.
Not being the first to volunteer feels wrong on so many levels. Not sharing my thoughts or testimony is almost painful.
I mean, you don’t hear a lot of preachers spouting from the pulpit, “Clam up and do nothing!” So how can this be right?
Indeed, obedience and good works and love with action are hallmarks of my faith, but I’m learning they are not The One Thing to which Jesus referred.
In Mark 10, we meet a young rich man who also wanted to know The One Thing.
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
[Jesus replied] “…You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.'”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” ~Mark 10:17-21
What’s The One Thing he lacked?
Sacrifice? Faith? Love?
I’ve scratched my head over the past weeks, prayed, devoured commentaries and searched God’s Word for the answer. But one morning when I wasn’t even looking, I came to this…
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~Matthew 6:21 (NIV)
I read these familiar words and asked myself, “Where is your treasure? What do you value most?”
Like all good Christian girls, I know The Right Answers:
-My relationship with God
-Advancing The Kingdom
I can honestly say I treasure these things because they each are extremely important to me; I do indeed value them. I even do The Deeds to prove it. But when I read this verse in The Message, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
“It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”~Matthew 6:21 (MSG)
What The Rich Man lacked was Heart.
In an unforeseen twist, The Lord flipped my well-meaning self-evaluation. “Jessie, where are you? Where is your HEART?”
Tears filled my eyes as the answer flooded my mind. I don’t know anymore, Lord.
It feels like my heart is everywhere and nowhere right now. I’m still SAYING The Right Things and DOING lots of things that are Right, but He has shown me I’m operating more out of obligation than passion. My Heart just isn’t in it anymore.
Maybe that’s what Martha was doing, too.
Martha was not simply trying to host an impressive meal for Jesus; according to The Law, she was obligated to. In some teachings, hospitality was considered even more important than prayer!
Martha was no doubt mortified by her sister’s failure to Do The Right Thing according their upbringing. Mary was being rebellious and immoral in front of a Rabbi; what was she thinking?!
As a Jew, Jesus was familiar with this tradition, too. He knew the importance of opening one’s home to serve travelers and strangers. He understood Martha’s tizzy–and her heart.
In that moment of distraction, Martha’s heart was in obeying The Law, Doing The Right Thing.
The young rich man had done The Right Thing all his life, obeyed every letter of The Law. He wanted to secure his seat, but Jesus wanted to secure his heart.
Doing The Right Thing isn’t The One Thing.
“Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life!”~Galatians 6:15 (MSG)
Jesus came to fulfill The Law (Matt. 5:17) so we could live life free from The Law! So our hearts could be fixed on HIM, not The Right Thing.
Mary sat because she understood this.
Anyone can muster up the willpower to obey, do good deeds, or be kind and moral–even non-believers. But only those who treasure Jesus can Stop Doing or Sell Everything just to sit on the floor and listen to His voice.
“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” ~Psalm 27:4
Martha was Talking; Mary was Seeking.
Martha was Doing; Mary was Dwelling.
Martha was Busy; Mary was Praying.
Obedience, good works and love with action are necessary, but like Martha, Jesus has shown me they are not The One Thing because they do not satisfy our hearts.
Mary’s heart was in The Right Place and Jesus said she found The One Thing that mattered–The Good Portion–and it would not be taken from her.
Jesus is The Good Portion. Literally, He is whole. Solid. Filling. Mary was satisfied.
So what’s The One Thing?
A Heart that’s in The Right Place…
At the feet of Jesus.
Jesus, You are The One Thing I need. Help me want You more than anything else, to drop everything to sit at Your feet and gaze upon Your beauty. Show me what to stop doing. Tell me when to stop talking. Meet me in prayer that I may be satisfied. In Jesus’ Name I ask these things. Amen.
To start at the beginning of this Martha-thon, see these posts: