God’s Word for You
Luke 10:42b the one thing needful
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, June 26, 2018
In fact, Mary has chosen that better portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
A good portion of devotion to Jesus would be serving him. Service to others is a way of looking at the whole second table of the Law: loving your neighbor as yourself. There are times when an emergency arises, and a Christian might need to forego attending church on a Sunday morning in order to care for a sickly family member. These things happen. But a Christen needs to seriously consider whether it’s worth taking a job when he will never again be able to worship because of a work schedule. Providing for one’s family at the cost of providing for their souls is a terrible, unthinkable price to pay.
The word “portion” is merida (μερίδα), which means a part of a divided whole. That is to say, of two and only two options, to serve Christ is good, a very good thing. But to listen to Christ is better: it is good, and it is The Good. If you must choose between serving and listening, choose listening. It is always better to find out what Jesus has to say than to assume you know and to attempt to do it.
We must not interpret Mary’s choice as the choice of faith. The Bible never, ever, presents faith as a choice one makes, but always as a gift one receives. If we try to force our way into this thought, then Martha will come out an unbeliever and Mary will be saved by her own decision and not by Jesus—which is to say, Mary will not be saved at all, either. Both of them would end up unbelievers if we think Mary “choose to believe.” They were both believers.
We must also set aside the temptation to waste this perfect passage by knocking down straw men. It’s true that people throw away their Sundays—reserved by God himself since the very Creation—and spend them on shopping, loafing, fishing or watching or playing sports, visiting family or just relaxing. These things are neither sinful nor are they generally classed as good works. But this passage isn’t focusing on whether or not we will set aside time for God. It’s really about the priority of the first table of the Law over the second table. Would we rather sit at God’s feet, or wash the feet of our fellow man? We will be willing to do both, but we should prefer the one thing needful, which is to listen to God.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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