One Thing Necessary

By Paul Koch

I don’t think there can be any denying that our world is full of distractions. The ability, even the desire, to simply sit and be still, to be alone for a moment with your thoughts, is a fading reality. We are constantly doing something. Our technological advancements have given us a lot of great things, but they have also taken from us the freedom to simply do nothing. The desire to constantly check your phone, to get the latest score or check your Instagram feed keeps us always distracted. We are busy people; multitasking is just the norm these days. We regularly have multiple conversations with different people all at the same time, and we don’t even think twice about it. I can be talking with my wife while commenting on a group text message, while watching something on TV.

In addition to being distracted and fractured, we always seem to be on the move. We run here and there throughout the day. There is always something to be done, something to go see, somewhere we need to be. Living here in Ventura only makes it worse, I think. It’s not like we have bad weather all that often that would force us to just stop and stay home for the day. We don’t tend to stop unless we’re sick. And when we do stay home, we tend to fill our time planning out what we are going to do when we leave again.

And with all this movement, all this frenzied action that fills our lives, it can become difficult to actually weigh out what matters most. Which interaction is to be prized over another? What use of your time is the most crucial thing and what is simply a mindless distraction? If you were to think about your own life and examine all the things that you do, what would you say are the most important things? Is time with your family most important? How about hanging out with your friends? Is that what is important? Do you prioritize your financial investments over spontaneous getaways with the one you love? Is making sure your kids or grandkids have everything they need and more really important to you? Perhaps it’s taking care of yourself, rushing off to the gym to lose some unwanted pounds that is important. Off all the things that you do, and you do a lot, what would you say is truly necessary?

In Luke 10, we are given a wonderful account that might help us focus on what is truly necessary in our lives. A woman named Martha invites our Lord into her home. Imagine that. Imagine inviting Jesus of Nazareth into your house. What do you think you would be doing? I bet whatever it is that you would do, it would probably look a lot like what Martha did. Here he comes, the long-awaited Messiah. You are going to take good care of him. You are going to serve him the best way you could, get out the good china, perhaps use a fancy tablecloth, that sort of thing. There’s a lot to be done when you have guests in your home. Entertaining is not for the faint of heart. Cleaning the house, preparing the meal, making sure the wine glasses are filled and stay filled, serving everyone and making sure there is plenty to go around, doing the dishes, on and on the list goes. Good old Martha is doing it all. She is demonstrating her love of our Lord by serving him. Meanwhile, her sister, Mary, isn’t doing anything. She hasn’t lifted a single finger to help out poor old Martha. At some point, Martha can’t stand it anymore and tries to have Jesus intervene for her. There is a lot of work to do, a lot of things to be busy about, so she says, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.”

Now think about this. What Martha was doing was faithful. It was a good thing. Hospitality was one of the greatest ways you could serve your neighbor. To open your home to someone else, to feed them from your table, this was love in action, love that went far beyond any words. And to be honest, if any of you were there, you would most likely be right there helping Martha. Sitting back, being passive, that isn’t your style, that isn’t what you want to do. You are doers. You are busy. You like to be of some use. Perhaps you don’t want to cook the meal, but at least you can open the wine. Maybe the dishes aren’t your thing, but you don’t mind helping to clear the table. Such actions, even if they are small, mean that you have a part to play in it all. You have an opportunity to demonstrate your love, your care, your compassion for someone else.

In fact, I would imagine that you wouldn’t be there for too long before you began to throw Mary a few dirty looks. Just sitting there like there’s no work to be done, no service to be rendered. Doesn’t she see how hard her sister is working? Doesn’t she see that it isn’t fair? And so you feel the need to do something, but you also begin to judge other people for their lack of doing. Perhaps you find their failure to do at least what you are doing a sure sign that they do not love their Lord. If he was really the one you wanted to serve and honor, then why aren’t you serving him? Churches do this sort of thing really well. They established guidelines for how you ought to serve, so that you can demonstrate your love.

But our Lord doesn’t respond the way you would respond. He doesn’t seem to care about the unfairness of it all. He simply says, “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.” What? That doesn’t seem right. You end up standing there with a roast in the oven, your apron on and a mop in one hand, exhausted and looking to Mary for some help, and he says that the one necessary thing is the one thing that you are not dong. In fact, the one necessary thing is not doing anything at all, to stop, to listen, to receive. This is the good portion that Mary has chosen. This is what is truly important.

In life, we are doers. You live a life that flows from the faith you’ve been given, and that life is marked by your actions of love. Your service that you render to others. It may be being a faithful and hard-working employee. It might be taking care of your family by providing and protecting. It could be that you are a continual friend with a compassionate heart and shoulder to cry on. You might even be as bold as Martha and open your home to others, invite them in and serve them to the best of your ability. Perhaps you serve by your offerings and tithes that you give to the work of the church, or perhaps you serve by volunteering. In many ways, the greatest service you render is when you speak words of love and forgiveness to the broken and hurting people all around you.

But when it comes to your salvation, when it comes to eternal life, when it comes to confidence in the blessings of God, then your doing ceases. Your salvation does not rest in your hands. It isn’t something you do. It is something you receive. Like an empty-handed beggar, you bring nothing to the table. Like Mary, you are rendered passive. Now, this is offensive to doers like us. There is no room for your pride or your glory, no argument that you can make for credit. It is all Christ’s doing, and it is the one thing that is necessary.

Today then, for this moment, I want you to stop. Stop doing and receive the words of your Lord. Drink deep of his blessings. For without hesitation, without pause or qualification he has said to you, “I have found you. I love you. I will not abandon you. I will not forget you. I died for you. I rose for you. I forgive you.” And that is all that is necessary.