Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41–42)
When you stop to remember that God exists — that he created all that is from nothing; that he sustains everything we know, moment by moment, with a word from his mouth; that he governs over every government on earth; that he channeled all of that power and authority to enter into his creation, taking on flesh, enduring weakness and temptation, suffering hostility to the point of death, even death on a cross, all to shower us with mercy, cleanse us of our sin, and secure our eternity with him in paradise — it is stunning, isn’t it, that we ignore and neglect him like we do.
Isn’t it amazing that God lived before time began, and yet we sometimes struggle to find even ten minutes for him? Isn’t it perplexing, bordering on insanity, that we sometimes prefer distracting ourselves with our phones over taking advantage of our breathtaking access to his throne of grace? Isn’t it kind of unexplainable how we often live as if we do not have time to sit and enjoy the presence of God?
It is stunning, amazing, and perplexing, and yet so painfully familiar. Everyone who has followed Jesus knows what it is like to be distracted from following Jesus. That means we all, every one of us, can sympathize with anxious Martha.
Distracted by Fear
When Martha saw that Jesus had come to town, she welcomed him into the home where she and her sister lived (Luke 10:38). When Mary saw Jesus, she immediately sat down at his feet, hanging on his every word. “But Martha,” Luke tells us, “was distracted with much serving” (10:40).
To her credit, she was not distracted with little serving, but with much serving. And it’s hard to be too hard on her. She was hosting the Messiah — Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. And she was preparing the food alone. Mary realized who Jesus was, and sat down to listen. Martha realized who Jesus was, and ran to do all she could for him.
The serving, however, was not the problem in itself. It was anxiety that was consuming Martha. When she complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping her, he responded, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” Her grumbling had opened wide a window into her heart, a window Jesus did not need, but seized upon anyway. Love was not inspiring her to serve; anxiety was. Her turmoil was driven by misplaced fear. How often is this true of us?
One Necessary Thing
Jesus knows how to still the raging waves of anxiety. Notice that he says her name not once, but twice: “Martha, Martha . . .” You can almost hear him slowing down the second time. He used his voice, like a brake, to slowly quiet the turbulence in her heart. He knew how distracted she was, how wildly her mind was racing from one worry to another, and so he began by helping her focus: “Martha, Martha . . .”
“You are anxious and troubled about many things,” he goes on to say, “but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41–42). He confronts her sinful anxiety — our sinful anxiety — with necessity, then felicity, and lastly security.
First, necessity. “You are troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” In other words, everything that feels so pressing, so critical, so overwhelming is ultimately unnecessary next to hearing and knowing Jesus. Satan will try to make everything feel more urgent than sitting down to be with Jesus. But, in the end, only one thing is truly necessary: to know, obey, and enjoy Jesus.
Second, felicity. “One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion.” While it might seem like Mary had abandoned her responsibilities and left her sister out to dry, she had actually chosen wisely and lovingly. And for choosing the one necessary thing, she received the good portion. Necessary was no sacrifice for her; it was all gain. Because his presence was her portion, her portion was not just right, but good.
And lastly, security. “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Not only has Mary chosen wisely, sitting at his feet to receive his words, but she has chosen happiness. And not just any happiness, but a full and abundant happiness that no person or circumstance could ever take from her. Is there any better word to a heart distracted by worry? The good I will give you, you will never, ever lose.
Have the cares of this world distracted you from sitting at the feet of Jesus? Hear his voice calling your name, bidding you to come and enjoy the one necessary thing: him.