One Thing is Needful

By Pastor Teck Uy

In our attempt to serve the Lord, we are often distracted by the things we do that have no eternal significance. Meanwhile, we complain and murmur because of the load that we are carrying. This was the case of Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus. She was busy serving her special guest, the Lord Jesus Christ, and complained that her sister Mary was not helping her. For this, Jesus gave a loving rebuke saying, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). He was admonishing Martha to get her priorities right. There was nothing wrong with what Martha was doing, but because she did not have the right priorities, the work of serving the Lord became burdensome. Martha was particularly upset because Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet listening to his teachings, instead of helping her sister with the preparations.

In acknowledging the good work that Mary was doing, the Lord Jesus was emphasizing the fact that we can offer to him many kinds of services, but only one thing is needed. This one thing is to spend time with him and listen to his teachings. Certainly, we cannot serve the Lord properly and acceptably unless we know what he demands from us. We need to listen to his teachings first so that we know how to serve him better. If we start doing the work of serving but lack the knowledge on how to serve properly, we will end up frustrated and upset for failing to properly respond to the call. We need to consider what Moses commanded Joshua to do when the helm of leadership was passed on to him. He said, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).

The kind of service that Martha rendered to the Lord was focused on meeting material and physical needs. While this is important and should not be neglected, it should not, however, be our priority. In his epistle, the apostle Paul likened it to physical training. He said, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). Indeed, the benefit of anything that has to do with the flesh is temporal. The benefit will only be for this life. However, things that we do in the spirit will not only benefit us here on earth but will go on to the next life – eternity. Mary was focused on eternal things and what she got out of spending time with the Lord will stay with her forever and no one can take it away from her.

In his Psalm, King David expressed his priority in life when he said, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). King David realized that there was no better way to spend his time here on earth than to spend it with the Lord. He not only asked the Lord for it, but he actively pursued it. His desire to spend time with the Lord motivated him to act it out. The problem with many is that they lack obedience or action. They are good in their words but are lacking in their actions. If we only excel in obedience and serve the Lord faithfully, then we will be blessed in many ways just like King David. And because King David prioritized his relationship with the Lord, he was given much success and joyfully testified, “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5).

Let us guard our hearts so that we shall not be weighed down by the cares and worries of this world, just like Martha. Let us consider Jesus’ teachings, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:31-33). If we only listen to these teachings, we can live worry-free lives. Some worry so much about food that they neglect their lives. They work endlessly for food that does not satisfy. They go against the commands of the Lord, particularly the command to set aside a day of rest. The Lord’s design for a day of rest was not only for man’s physical body, but foremost, for his spirit. Therefore, the one thing that we need in this life is to seek the Lord and enjoy our time with him. If we have him, we will have everything that we will ever need in life. He is our provider and sustainer but above all, he is our Lord and Saviour. Praise the Lord!