“But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.” And Jesus answered and said unto her, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
– Luke 10:40-42
Isn’t it easy to get so caught up in doing things, even good things, that we forget our real purpose? We get distracted by all of the day-to-day concerns and cares that we lose focus. When Martha came to Jesus and asked him to tell Mary to help her, she gets a response that she probably wasn’t expecting. I’m sure that she thought to herself, “Here I am, doing the work of a servant. Sacrificing my time and effort while Mary just sits there.” When she approached Jesus, she was expecting him to commend her. Maybe he’d say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Now, Mary, why don’t you follow the example of your sister and become a self-sacrificing servant?” But instead, she got proverbially slapped in the face by his response. “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled by many things. But one thing is needful and Mary hath chosen that good part.” How could he?
What part had Mary chosen? She had chosen the presence of God. She had chosen the “abiding” that Jesus spoke of in John 15. She had chosen to bask in his words and glory. And Martha? She had chosen to be busy.
The Greek word that Jesus uses when he speaks to Mary is “χρεία” or Chreia. What I find interesting about the word is that, not only can it mean ‘needful’, it can also mean ‘duty or business.’ Martha felt as though she had so much business to attend to. So many duties to see to. So much to do! But Jesus said to her, you have only one duty: Join me. Abide in me. Love me. Seek me. Hear me. Listen to me. Ask of me. Follow me. This is all that is needful. It’s the only duty or business that matters.
It reminds me of Solomon’s journey. He writes in Ecclesiastes of his experience seeking meaning in life. He wanted to know what really mattered. He looks at life from many perspectives and seeks happiness in many avenues but in the end, he concludes: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
There it is again, ‘duty.’ This is the only thing that matters. I want to encourage all of us to look at our lives. Does one clear duty outshine all others? Does our life have a sense of focused purpose? Are we abiding in his presence like Mary? Or are we going about, trying to attend to so much ‘business’? I pray that we would all be more intentional about living in God’s presence, every moment.