“Martha, Martha, you are worried about a million things, but only one thing is the answer.” –Jesus, paraphrased from Luke 10:41-42, The Voice
What is that "one thing"?
That question has plagued me for the past decade I suppose.
Let’s look at the subject in more context: She [Martha] had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me”. But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her”. Luke 10:39-42 NASB
For most of my life I have always sympathized with Martha. Maybe I’ve looked at things too concretely or too black & white, but in my mind, if there are things to be done…then there are things to be done. I mean, Martha had JESUS in her home, she was fixing dinner for JESUS. Mary may have been enjoying whatever Jesus was saying, but eventually people were going to want to eat, and the food was not going to prepare itself.
I like to rationalize anxiety.
Martha was busy. Busy, busy, busy. I like to be busy. Having things to do and people relying on me makes me feel useful, important, and purposeful.
I don’t think Jesus has anything against somebody cooking dinner or cleaning their home or even occasionally being busy. It’s just that those things aren’t the answer. Those things will stress you out. Those things will suck up your time, consume your life, and become your identity. Who am I? I’m Martha! I get things done.
Not the answer.
You’re worried, you’re anxious.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 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. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Jesus, Matthew 6:25-27, 31-34 NIV).
You’re finding your identity in your accomplishments, in your abilities. They will eventually fail you.
OK, I get it. Jesus says not to worry, not to be anxious, not to seek anything before His kingdom. But what does that look like? What exactly was Mary doing? In practical terms I can’t say, “Forget the dishes! Forget going to work! I’m just going to read the Bible!”. I would get fired. I would be homeless. Surely that’s not what Jesus meant. He likes us to be responsible and be men and women of our word. So, what did He mean, “one thing is the answer”??????
And then I realize: I’m responding to Jesus’ response to Martha just like Martha would! I’m worried about a million things.
And as I’ve grown to know the Lord more I’ve realized that the one thing might not be as complicated as I’m trying to make it. The one thing is The One Thing. Jesus.
And then suddenly it all makes sense (in a very nonsensical way). Jesus is the answer to everything. Not reading the Bible, not quiet time, not going to church, not prayer, not even all those things combined (although all those things effect it), but the answer is simply Jesus Himself. His Presence. His reality. His Life. His Truth. CLING TO HIM.
I imagine that somehow Mary knew this Truth, she knew that Jesus, just Jesus, just the divine God-man Himself was the answer to absolutely everything she could think, feel, or imagine. And she wanted Him. Oh, she wanted Jesus and she just couldn’t get close enough. She wanted to sit at His feet, to soak Him up, to bask in His Presence, to be consumed by Him. Christ in us and us in Him.
I in them and You in Me-so that they [believers] may be brought to complete unity (Jesus in John 17:23 NIV).
For in Him [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. (1 Corinthians 1:16-17 NIV).
So then, in every situation, Jesus becomes the answer, not what I do, but what I am focusing on. I can’t get to sleep? Jesus. I need to clean my house? Jesus. I need to have a difficult conversation? Jesus. I need to make myself exercise? Jesus. I’m lonely? Jesus. I’m excited? Jesus. I’m sick? Jesus. I’m angry? Jesus.
That doesn’t mean I don’t do things. I make dinner, Martha. I clean my house. I go to work. I talk to people about fun and sometimes not so fun things. But the whole time? Jesus. Do I sound obsessed? I hope so.
Life is FULL of tasks, responsibilities, experiences, stresses, etc. Remain focused on the ONE thing. Even if it doesn’t make sense. How is focusing on Jesus going to help me get this paper written? How is focusing on Jesus going to find me a job? I don’t know, but it will. Jesus. Who He is, what He said, what He did, how He lived, His very Presence in your life right this second. Focus. The rest will just flow.
Mary has chosen the good part and it will not be taken from her.