The One Thing

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Can you imagine a greater privilege than to get to cook and serve a meal to Jesus and His disciples? The queen of New Testament hospitality, Martha of Bethany, was probably aquiver with excitement over this opportunity. She wanted it to be just right. But she needed some help and her sister Mary was nowhere to be found . . . until Martha went into the main part of the house and saw her sister sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him.
Martha’s complaint to Jesus over her sister’s lack of help prompts one of the most radical statements spoken by Jesus. If we allow His words to sink into our lives, we will be forever changed. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” Then He pointed to what Mary was doing as the one thing.
We don’t know about your lives, but ours are very busy with many things that seem needed or necessary. Look at our calendars and you’ll find many things that we think are important and should be done. But we must assume that the Lord of Creation knows what He’s talking about and that in the midst of our horizontal activity only one thing is truly essential.
What amazes us is the reality of the “one thing” Mary was engaged in. She wasn’t really doing anything! She was simply being with Jesus and preferring this to everything else she could have been occupied with on that particular day. But Jesus gently tells us that being with Him is the one thing we should commit ourselves to— above everything else.
What is your priority today? Jesus points us from a horizontal lifestyle that focuses on needs, people, calendars, budgets, and a seemingly endless list of “important” activities toward a vertical posture that fixes our eyes on His love, purpose and presence and soaks in all that He is . . . just as Mary of Bethany has taught us.

Listen: Spend a few quiet moments seeking God. Be attentive to whatever He may speak to your heart.

Reflect: How is the Spirit leading you to respond to what you have heard from God?

Confess and Repent: If there is something the Spirit convicts you of, take time to prayerfully confess it. Resolve to turn from it if it is sin, or step toward whatever He is leading you into that you have either neglected or not seen before.

Ask: Lord Jesus, how I long to sit at Your feet and listen. Help me to turn from busyness and self to look to You. In the midst of serving You and loving You, I want to be with You. I need Your help to keep my priorities based on Your desires for me. I lay down my life this day and choose to fix my eyes on You.


  • Are you more like Mary or Martha? Both temperaments are important in the kingdom; however, one usually goes about things in a way that Jesus would consider to be backwards. To be more like Mary, we need to focus our hearts vertically before acting in the horizontal. Martha personalities tend to rush into activity and then see if Jesus is pleased with their efforts. How can you live differently for the kingdom . . . or, how can you model for others the kingdom life?
  • All of us are involved in ministry, whether on the mission field, serving in a church, or at work, school or home. Wherever God has placed us, He intends for us to sit at His feet, listening to get His perspective on our ministry activity. What would happen if
    today, you spent time seeking Him for each “important” action or decision? Try waiting upon Him for a few minutes before each thing you set out to do today. See if it makes a difference in your level of effectiveness.
  • What activity in your life could you set aside in favor of enjoying the presence of Jesus more fully and more often? Why not try it and see God move as you honor Him in this way?

Taken from Vertical with Jesus by David and Kim Butts. © 2022 PrayerShop Publishing.