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The Scriptorium

The One Thing We Need

It's Jesus. Luke 10.38-42

Luke 10 (6)

Pray Psalm 16.5-8.
O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.
I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel;
My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
I have set the LORD always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.

Sing Psalm 16.5-8.
(All to Christ: Jesus Paid It All)
My portion and my cup are You, my Savior dear;
You help and hold me up and ever keep me near.

Refrain v. 11
Make me know life’s way! Pleasures fill Your hand.
Fill my life with joy each day! Before Your face I stand.

I bless Your Name, O Lord; my mind instructs each night;
You teach me by Your Word and guide me in the right.

You are ever with me, Lord; in You I shall not fall.
But rejoicing in Your Word, I abide within Your call.

Read Luke 10.1-42; meditate on verse 38-42.


1. What was bothering Martha?

2. How did Jesus respond to her request?

Martha’s complaint was on the order of “I need some help!” Jesus’ answer was, in effect, “That’s not what you need most.”

Martha was doing a good work, serving the people she and Mary had welcomed into their home to be with Jesus (vv. 38, 39). The problem was not that she was busy serving. Serving is always a good work, when done in a proper frame of reference. Martha’s problem was that her serving had distracted her (v. 40) from the main thing, the one needful thing, which is to be always before the Presence of the Lord (Ps. 16.8), attending to His every word, gazing upon His beauty (Ps. 27.4), and finding in Him all peace, strength, and joy.

For the moment, Martha’s serving had become her god, and it wasn’t producing what she needed. Her serving had become oppressive. She was tense, anxious, and a little irritated at Jesus (“Lord, do You not care…?”).

Jesus’ rebuke is tender and loving. He did not condemn her serving; He simply reminded her of how to cope with the stresses and duties of her calling. She should follow Mary’s example, even as she was doing her work, and know the Presence of the Lord for peace, strength, and joy. This is the good part, the thing we all need all the time. Get there and stay there, because no one and nothing can take it away from you (Rom. 8.38, 39).

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Even if you were one of the seventy sent out on special mission, or you got to see Satan fall like lightning from the sky, or you were a lawyer conversing one-on-one with Jesus, or you were doing many works of good service meeting the physical needs of others, even if you were successfully and joyfully doing all these things simultaneously, still nothing should cause us to rejoice more than knowing that our names are written in heaven and we serve a risen Savior. That, and only that, is the good part which will never be taken away from us (Lk.10.20, 42). 

“Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73.25, 26).
“No one is holy like the LORD, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God (1 Sam. 2.2).
“My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Ps. 84.2).

Jesus wants us to come to Him, follow Him, and learn from Him.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden [like Martha], and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls [at My feet like Mary did]. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11.28-30).

With all the this and that of life, and people and situations pulling you here and there, hear Jesus’ tender words to you: “one thing is needed, choose the good part, sit with Me, learn from Me, be loved by Me.” He wants us to get the balancing act of life clear in our hearts and minds. Yes, of course, jobs must be done, food must be purchased, meals must be cooked, bills paid, laundry washed and dried, yards tended, children taught and cared for, all of that and much more. But God knows all that. What He wants most is for us to know Him, obey Him, love Him, sit daily at the feet of His Word, talk with Him in prayer, and serve others with our focus intact and firmly on Him.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jn. 14.27).

We need Jesus.

For reflection
1. How would you explain to a new believer what the one needful thing is?

2. How do you make use of that one needful thing?

3. Do we just need that one needful thing during our times of prayer and reading Scripture? Explain.

Let the desire for wisdom lead you as it did Mary. It is a greater and more perfect work. Do not let service divert the knowledge of the heavenly Word.… Nor is Martha rebuked in her good serving, but Mary is preferred because she has chosen the better part for herself, for Jesus abounds with many blessings and bestows many gifts.
Ambrose of Milan (333-397), Exposition of the Gospel of Luke 7.85-86

Pray Psalm 16.10, 11.
Meditate on Jesus, exalted in glory. See Him there in all His majesty, splendor, and might, looking upon You with His unfailing love. Speak to Him of your love for Him, and of how you long for His coming.

Sing Psalm 16.10, 11.
(All to Christ: Jesus Paid It All)
Soon Your glory I shall see, for as Jesus rose again,
You will come to gather me to my home with You in heav’n.
Refrain v. 11
Make me know life’s way! Pleasures fill Your hand.
Fill my life with joy each day! Before Your face I stand.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can download all the studies in our Luke series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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