A few days ago, as I sat at my desk at work towards the close of business, I suddenly felt very hungry and I began to crave some meal I had previously cooked and packed up in the freezer. Right there and then, I set out my dinner in my mind and thought that as soon as I got home, I would take the pack out of the deep freezer, warm it and have myself a lovely meal. So excited was I that later in the evening, as I drove home hungry, I banished the thoughts of any snacks or something to somewhat satiate my hunger, waiting just to get home to act out my food plan. So, I did get home, got the bowl out of the freezer and put it in the microwave. Now, I took my time, ensured that I checked out all the settings and set the timer just how long I thought would reheat my food without overcooking it and then I thought to quickly go get a shower and then come back and spread myself a princely dinner as I had enough time to return whilst the food defrosted and reheated.
And so it was that I showered, did all the little odd bits here and there and sauntered into the kitchen some minutes later, looking for my dinner, surely the timer would have gone off and my food would be ready. Lo and behold I opened the microwave and the bowl was as cold as ice. I was stunned and looked at the microwave again and realized that I had checked all the settings but forgot to press start. As I laughed at my folly and pressed on the start button, I just heard God begin to talk to me about ‘One Thing is Needful’. Hmm, in this case, I had failed to do the most important thing which was to press the start button. As I laughed, I just imagined same scenario with a washing machine, separating the whites from colored, checking the settings and actually loading the clothes in and forgetting to actually start. Or having worked on that crazy excel model in the office that was immediately due and forgetting to click save. I kept remembering several examples.
We are all familiar with the story of Mary and how that Jesus said the one thing needful evidently was that which she chose—that good part which should not be taken away from her. Very clearly this was to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear his word. This and nothing less, this and nothing more. More than anything, it indicated Mary’s readiness to believe what Jesus taught, to accept and to obey and to delight in His instructions. Like David said, my delight is in your law. Or the song writer sang, my desire is to please you, to be more and more like you Jesus…To sit at Jesus’ feet implies faith as well as submission. We must be learners in the school of Christ, and willing to apply what we learn. Sitting at the feet of Jesus indicates the child-like spirit of true discipleship.
That day, I felt like Martha. Martha was a dear beloved hostess, very warm and very busy. She is busy but somewhat quick tempered and she complains about her sister Mary. Jesus responds ever so gently, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. That warning was what God brought to me that evening. Am I engaged very diligently into things that are important but neglecting the most important? Yes, I love my job and I’m building a career, do I rise up very early and sleep late, toiling at my job and spending my entire life in it. Is that all there is? Is making money everything? Is wealth worth gaining merely for the sake of having people say ‘she is very wealthy, or she’s on Forbes list of the richest and most influential black women’. Is that all?
We often sacrifice God’s one thing in favor of many things. There is something more significant to be seen in Mary who sits at the feet of Jesus versus Martha who is “much serving.” I know Jesus is not contrasting service and worship and saying that worship is better. No, all Jesus is contrasting is “many things” with “one thing.” We are sometimes overwhelmed, pressured, worried, consumed, vexed, absorbed, bogged down with many legitimate things – serving, witnessing, preaching, giving, writing, singing, attending meetings, reading, studying, building churches, fellowshipping – when Jesus says only one thing is needed, and Mary has discovered it, and it will not be denied her. What is the one thing?
Truth is that we do not have to choose between worshiping the Lord like Mary or serving the Lord like Martha. Neither does there need to be such a conflict between our physical or secular needs and our spiritual growth. If you read the story of Mary and Martha carefully, you will see that Mary had been in the kitchen with Martha until Jesus started teaching. When Jesus started teaching, He became priority. So cooking for Jesus was noble but not the needful thing at that time. Sometimes, even good things can fill up our lives to the point where we neglect our souls. To be candid, God has not blessed us with our families, friends, jobs, abilities and other gifts to equip us with a bag of excuses to abandon our fellowship/close walk with Him.
Jesus taught us that we should not be anxious or worry about anything, we must first seek God’s Kingdom and its righteousness and all these other things shall be added unto us. We would rarely face opposition when we got busy with many things as we would if we chose the one needful thing. The needful and good thing which Mary had chosen was to listen to the Lord’s teaching. Today, if we are too busy for God, we are busier than God intended. If we are too busy to hear from God, to pray and study His word, to enjoy a private walk and personal time and fellowship with Him, then, there truly is something wrong with us. Like Martha, we have failed to choose the ‘one thing’. I hear you say, but I am busy, but you aren’t too busy to eat and sleep? You make time for what is important to you. If our Christianity is defined solely by going to church and being busy with life then we are living sub optimal lives. If I am so hassled by life and living that I am weighed by anxieties and lashing out at those I love like Martha did then I have chosen wrong.
Now, this also speaks to us to re prioritize, some of us need to consider what is needful. Some of us are busy bees working for God like Martha and not necessarily walking or working with Him. I call it the ‘Martha Ministry’ and now is a good time to recalibrate and come back. We have become religious and not spiritual, very diligent in our religion, we are careful to practice and imbibe the traditions, but truth is like I forgot to hit the start key, all this is nothing, unless we sit at Jesus’ feet. Unless we bring ourselves, to sit at his feet, and receive the truth obediently from him, our religion is altogether vain. It is time for us to look in the mirror and ask ‘have I chosen that one thing’ ? Do I really believe in the person of Jesus and accept him first hand as my Teacher? Do I study the Word of God to learn the truth from him, and not accept it blindly and second hand from anyone else?
God is demanding that we focus on what is truly needful. For many of us, we are like Martha, we have a measure of sitting at his feet, but we have not given ourselves wholly to it yet. Yes, you have been very busy with work and have drifted away from your relationship with God. Your voice in worship has faded, and you have been full of care and somewhat devoid of prayer. Whatever your case, I encourage you to pause from whatever you are doing, even if it is service to God as a pastor or teacher or worker and just and say to yourself in the words of Charles Spurgeon “To me, as a worker, the one thing needful is to keep near my Lord, and I must not so suffer the watering of others to occupy me, as to neglect my own heart, lest I should have to say ‘woe is me, they made me keeper in the vineyards, but my own vineyard have I not kept.'”
“One thing is needful.” God grant it to every one of us!—Amen.
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