One Thing Needed

Luke 10:41-42 – “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, [42] but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

My Prayer

One way to pray Scripture back to God is by turning a verse or two into a first-person statement. I’ve done that with today’s Scripture.

May I not be worried and troubled about many things; only one thing is needed. Like Mary, may I choose the good part, which will not be taken away from me.

I have no difficulty seeing the relevance of this truth in my life. It’s living out this truth that’s the hard part.

Get Busy Doing

Martha was busy… busy cooking, cleaning, organizing, preparing, just plain busy. Her work was important. She was entertaining guests and someone, after all, had to act responsibly. She was busy “doing.”

Mary didn’t seem quite so busy. What was she doing? Chatting, listening, and seemingly lounging about. What distinguished Martha’s activity from Mary’s apparent laziness was who Mary was with – the Lord Jesus Christ. She wasn’t necessarily busy “doing.” Instead, she was being, being in relationship. She was basking in the presence of the Lord Jesus. He was an invited guest who would not always be with them. What else should she have done? Mary chose the one thing needed and was told it would not be taken from her.

In our world, many people look down on Mary’s kind. “Why, nothing would ever get done if Mary and her ilk had their way,” we might hear. But that’s not exactly true. It’s not like Mary was a habitually lazy person who lay around the house in her pajamas until noon on a regular basis. This was different. Much different. She was enjoying fellowship with her invited Guest.

Our Invited Guest

We need to take a closer look at the text. Jesus does not admonish Mary for spending time with him; he admonished Martha. Like the poor, so too our jobs, chores, errands, and all the rest, will always be with us. But what of Christ? Well, he promised to always be with us, but in a practical sense he must be our invited Guest each day. He must be the One with whom we can just “be” each day. Jesus said that is the one thing needed and it will not be taken from us when we pursue it.

Not only that, but “being” must precede “doing” or else “doing” will turn into drudgery, bitterness, and even pointlessness. This is the point of Jesus’ words in John 15 about the branches needing to be connected to the vine. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing. Without time to “just be” with our Lord, we will run out of gas. We’ll burn out. It will hinder us in persevering until the end. Our “doing” may shine brightly for a season, but it won’t last for the long haul because it will not have the fuel of Christ’s Spirit to sustain it. And that fuel comes only through the one thing necessary – pursuing and enjoying our ongoing relationship with the living God through his Son. We must not forget that knowing him in this way is eternal life (John 17:3).

Are you pursuing the one thing in life truly needful? There are many competitors vying for your time, energy, and attention. Some of those things are even good. But don’t let the good become the enemy of the best. Choose the best. Choose consecrated (set apart) time each day to spend with your Lord. He promises you it is the one thing needed and it will not be taken away from you.

Walking Points

Read the following quote by James Houston.

This past century is possibly the first one in which action has been emphasized and valued more than contemplation. Today we think contemplation wastes time, produces nothing, and bumps awkwardly into our schedules. A devotional life is a questionable priority for most successful people today. But are we “successful” Christians if we are so busy organizing and propagating the Christian faith that we really do not know God personally and intimately?”

  • Have you ever felt lazy for spending time just “being” with the Lord instead of being busy “doing” something instead? Why do you think you felt that way?
  • Why do you think our society often errs on the side of activity rather than contemplation?
  • What are some ways we can follow Mary’s model of being with the Lord in our daily lives?
  • If you do not have this “set apart” time each day with the Lord, what are some ways you can build it into your schedule?


Heavenly Father, ours is a busy world, filled with noise and distractions. There are many things, even good things, that compete with our loyalty to you each and every day. Help me to be like Mary and choose the one thing that will not be taken from me, time spent with you. Protect me from my own weaknesses. Left to myself, I would choose things that would not draw me closer to you, let alone help me become more like you. By your grace, please keep me on the straight and narrow path that leads to abundant and eternal life. In Christ I pray. Amen.