One Thing Needful (A Reflection on Luke 10.38-42)

Some passages of Scripture are complex, inviting us to lots of study and contemplation. Others, though no less important, are simpler and can often serve as helpful reminders — even they feel at times like two-by-fours to the back of the head. Today’s offering from the Gospels is in the latter category. Jesus is at the home of Mary and Martha teaching; Mary is listening at Jesus’ feet, while Martha is off doing the hard work of being a host. When Martha complains about Mary not helping out, Jesus rebukes her, praising Mary for having chosen the one needful thing. The housework can wait; hearing the good news of the Kingdom of God cannot. 

It’s an important reminder in a distracted world with competing goals and fractured attention. There are thousands of books on organization, productivity, and prioritizing work loads. Mostly it comes down to this simple question:  What is the one thing needful right now? 

Whether we’re distracted by multiple competing deadlines at work, by making a group function behind the scenes, or by endless scrolling on our smartphones on a Tuesday night, asking ourselves this question can make a huge difference in our life. It’s not always some pious activity (though it certainly can be and perhaps often should be); sometimes it’s staying in bed if you’re not feeling well or cooking a good meal or putting away your phone to be attentive to your child or parent. 

This isn’t about turning the Gospel into a life hack. It’s not about conquering the to-do list, but about clarifying the priority and clearing the debris that so often gets in the way of what we value. So many of us feel like the life we’re living isn’t the one we want. And most of the time, this isn’t about wanting a yacht or stays at luxury hotels, but more time with family and friends, or learning a new language or skill, or even — dare I say it — getting serious about the life of faith. And on this front, Jesus’s words to Mary and Martha today, and to us, can change your life.

What’s truly important right now, in this moment?  

It’s a simple message this morning, but a beautiful one.

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