The Biblical phrase above just came to my mind as I started pondering this post. Then I wrote, “I suppose this is yanking the phrase slightly out of its Biblical context” as I waited for search results for its origin on the Bible website I had switched over to. I was thinking that it came from one of Paul’s epistles and had to do with “being all things to all men”– but I was wrong. It actually comes from Luke 10, and it is Jesus speaking:
“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. 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 10:38-42)
Lately I have been busy. Very busy. I have been busy keeping not only myself going and coming at the right place on time, but also doing a lot of chauffering for other family members and working on-the-job and on the side, and cooking and laundering and everything else that is always demanding time of all of us. I have also watched some interesting movies, have a fascinating book-on-cd (about a brain specialist’s personal journey through a stroke, believe it or not!) perpetually going in my car, and am deep into a big biography of Florence Nightingale and her family. I have also been “Reading My Bible”– at the end of the day, usually around midnight-1 a.m., for a few verses before nodding off. Needless to say, I have not been making much progress and have not been getting much out of it.
The gist of what I wanted to say when I began this post is this: I need a reminder, and maybe you do, too, about just what is necessary, what is important, in fact, what is vital. In my own life I’ve found that in general there is a “check” in my heart whenever I think, “I ought to pick up my Bible.” I don’t know why, but somehow, it is always easier to pass it over and pick up something else. You would think it was a plate of lima beans by my attitude. And yet I have personally experienced the joy, discovery, and excitement that accompany Bible study when I am committed and consistent. When I look at it as fellowship with God, and cultivate within my own heart a desire to know Him and understand His ways, I am always immensely blessed and enlightened.
So what is my problem?! I wonder if it isn’t illustrated quite well in the passage above. Another version translates the beginning of verse 40, “But Martha was distracted with much serving.” I have often diagnosed my own spiritual “mallaise” as a bad case of distraction, and I think I may be right. There are so many things happening in my life: things swirling around me, thoughts and emotions swirling around within me. So many things to do. So many things to worry about. So many problems that I must find solutions for. I bustle about like Martha– busy (sometimes I am even busy being lazy!) and tired and grumpy, and I am convinced these things I am busy attending to are the “needful” things.
And I am distracted from what is truly needful– what Martha’s sister already knew: “And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.” Perhaps Jesus is admonishing me along with Martha, across the millenia: “thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful”. One Thing– to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His word.
He is speaking today, the very Words of Life for my soul. Will I take the time to sit and listen?