As they went on their way, Jesus came into a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who was sitting at the Lord’s feet and was listening to his word. But Martha was distracted with all her serving. She came over and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me." The Lord answered and told her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is needed. In fact, Mary has chosen that better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (EHV)
You’ve probably heard the question, maybe even thought of your own answer: If your house were on fire and you could only take three things with you (or 10; the question varies), what would those things be? Hopefully, we’ll never have to find out. It’s possible that some reading may have lost some things that were precious to them in a fire. If this exercise hits home a little painfully, I do apologize.
Some people I know that have lost things in a fire came away from the experience with the conclusion, “The things we lost are just things. They are replaceable. People aren’t.” I would think that we all agree with this sentiment. That leads to another, more important question: what should we get rid of in our lives and what shouldn’t we?
This is really an exercise in priorities. What I see too often (in myself as well as in others) is that we try to cram into life everything that we like to do as well as those things we think we should do. If we are even mildly successful at including both, we can tell ourselves that it’s all important to us. Of course, it’s natural for us—not necessarily right, but natural—to spend more time doing the things we like. We also are more apt to do the things we should do but don’t necessarily want to do if there’s a penalty or reward connected to it.
As an example of thinking that we are giving the things we should do enough priority (and you probably knew that this was coming), we might think, “I may not go to church every week or read my Bible much, but if I get there once in a while (even once a year?), then I show it’s still important to me.” But is that true?
Jesus tells us that we know people (even ourselves) by their fruits, by the things they do and what they prioritize. In our Bible reading, even though Jesus—the promised Messiah, the Son of God—was a guest in Martha’s home, she did not have a good understanding of priorities in that moment. She was trying to serve Jesus, which was a good thing, but the problem came when Mary was intent on listening to Jesus and Martha asked for Jesus to redirect her to the work that Martha needed done. But Jesus wouldn’t comply. “Martha, Martha.” Jesus spoke to her with compassion, but with a purpose. “One thing is needed.” Jesus wasn’t saying how often that thing—his Word—should be heard or read. However, when it came to priorities, even with Jesus as the guest Martha wanted to serve, since Jesus was speaking and Mary was listening, that took priority.
There’s that word again: priority. “One thing is needed”—not special or important or anything else, but NEEDED. It’s needed because it brings to us Christ, our only and much-needed Savior. Clearly, it needs to be a priority. And let’s not fall into the false thinking that says, “Well, I was baptized and confirmed, I’m still a member. I may not get to church much but that doesn’t mean I’m not a Christian. I still believe.” I call it false thinking not because such a person isn’t a Christian but, again, what does Jesus say about it? His Word is needed! It’s needed because we are inundated with all kinds of distracting and damaging ideas from the unbelieving world around us, from false teachers and churches, even sometimes from our own reasoning.
Consider this example and ask yourself, “Is this enough?” If out of 8,760 hours in a year we spend 5 hours (5 worship services) with God’s Word, that’s .0057% of our time with the one thing that we need. Rather than “priority,” that says something more like “afterthought.” Note that I’m not talking about time spent in prayer. Prayer is good and important, so it’s great if you pray a lot, but that’s our talking to God, not God talking to us. God only speaks to us through his Word.
Again, it’s by his Word that God brings Jesus to us and the forgiveness of sins that he won for us. It’s by his Word that he enlightens us, strengthens us, comforts us, encourages us, and renews us. That’s why we need it. His Word is power, not just ink on paper. So this isn’t simply an appeal to come to church more often. It’s an appeal to give God the time he needs to bless and keep you as his own.
Remember that we put our worship services online, both live and then as a recording. While our desire is to be present with one another in worship and fellowship, if you’re truly not able to make it to worship, it’s a good alternative. If you haven’t been in church in a long time and you’re concerned about the reception you’ll receive if you show up one Sunday or Thursday, I assure you that your brothers and sisters in Christ will be happy to see you. Most importantly, God will bless you through his Word.
This article originally included in the Spring 2022 Proclaim newsletter. Read issues of Proclaim here.