One Thing is Necessary. Here it Is:

Leonardo Da Vinci’s last words were “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”

Da Vinci, the artist behind the famous Mona Lisa painting, felt inadequate at the end of his life.

How do you spend your time?

Chances are you spend a large amount of time working, (Americans spend more time at work than people from other countries), then there are meals, and sleep, and, of course, Netflix.

We are a busy people. You hear it all the time.

“How’s it going?”

“Great! I’m just so busy right now. I can’t wait for vacation.”

We are busy.

So busy that there are hundreds of apps aimed at helping us prioritize the different “things” in our life.

What is the priority?

So often, because we feel the weight of all the people and things vying for our time, we make sacrifices.

Some people sacrifice their productivity at work, some sacrifice time with their spouse or kids, others sacrifice sleep, and on and on.

What if, however, there was one thing that we needed to focus on. And when we focus on this one thing, we would find the peace that we desire from our busy schedules?

There is a one thing, that we all need to spend more time doing. There is one thing that if we were to do, our lives would change forever.

The problem is, most of us aren’t doing the one thing.

Instead, we see it as a task to be put off until our schedules get “less busy.”

What is the one thing?

Let’s look at a passage from the book of Luke to find out.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, ESV.)

Do you ever feel like Martha?

If you feel “too busy” too often, then your answer is yes.

Jesus, the famous wandering teacher – the Lord – was in Martha’s house. Of course, she jumps at the chance to start doing things. She was, at Luke records, “distracted with much serving.”

She grew frustrated and eventually goes to Jesus and, most likely in a frustrated tone, asks him to tell her sister to help her instead of just sitting down doing nothing.

Do you ever feel like this? Do you ever feel like your hard work – your time – is going unnoticed and potentially underappreciated? Do you ever feel so busy and look at others with envy as they seem to be doing something unimportant?

We’re all busy.

Jesus responds to the exasperated Martha by telling her she’s anxious and troubled about many things.

And here it is.

The one thing.

“but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” [emphasis mine]

Mary – the one sitting down on the ground seemingly doing nothing – had made the right decision.

Martha was so busy.

Was she doing something wrong?

Would we say that serving, working hard, or preparing one’s house for guests is wrong?


These things are good, but apparently, there is only one thing that is necessary and we should not prioritize any other thing over it.

As 19th-century preacher Charles Spurgeon said,  

The one thing [necessary] evidently is that which Mary chose - that good part which should not be taken away from her. Very clearly this was to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear his word. This and nothing less, this and nothing more.

The one thing, which is the most important thing, is to sit at the feet of Jesus.

Mary was in the posture of a learner, a disciple, a humble listener. Martha, though doing noble work – serving – was missing the opportunity to sit at the feet of the risen Lord.

We want this – we desire it deeply – yet we live as if we can’t have it. But we can.

We ask interesting questions like, “If you could ask God one question, what would it be?” operating under the assumption that we can’t bring our questions to God, or that we don’t have the opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus like Mary. But, we do.

Of course, we may not have the God in the flesh in Jesus of Nazareth here awaiting our questions. However, we do have the Holy Spirit, and though this is most certainly not an incarnation like Jesus, we do have the Spirit of God living in us.

What does this mean?

It means that every moment of our life is an opportunity to sit at the feet of our God; to sit at the great teacher’s feet.

While this indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us is something that most Christians know about, it’s not – it seems – something that we Christians know. We don’t know this in the sense that we truly believe it and allow this truth to radically change our lives.

If you knew Jesus was awaiting your arrival one morning to sit and teach you, would you wake up earlier to spend more time with him?

Would you treat your time with him as something to check off the list? Would you rush it?

Of course, not.

Most likely, you’d change around your entire schedule to spend as much intentional time with him as possible, hoping to know him in a way you didn’t previously.

But, we have this opportunity. If we truly believe that the Holy Spirit lives in us, we have that very opportunity. It’s not a physical presence, rather, it is a spiritual reality. It’s also something we need to cultivate. Spending significant, intentional time with the presence of God is a struggle for so many simply because they don’t do it. The more we sit at the feet of Jesus, the more we learn to yield to the Spirit of God and experience the presence in a more profound, real way.

When we decide to base our entire day’s schedule around this time with Jesus, we open our spirits up to this experience that we all so desperately crave. Everything changes when we spend

None said this better than Spurgeon,

We must, then, sit at his feet; it is absolutely necessary, and, without it, our whole life will be a complete failure; we may make money, but we shall lose our souls; we may gain honour, but shall have come short of the glory of God; we may enjoy pleasure, but we shall forfeit the pleasure which are at God’s right hand for evermore; we may have done our country some service, but to our God, and the higher country, we shall have rendered no service, for we cannot serve God if we will not obey Christ.

Jesus told us that sitting at his feet and learning from him is the one thing necessary. Even more so than doing things. This is not at the expense of serving or doing the good things he calls us to do, but, it seems there is a hierarchy and at the top is the one thing.

Nothing, not money, entertainment, pleasure, or service to our country is more important than the one thing. Nothing is worth the forfeiture of the one thing.

In fact, the good things Christ calls us to do are only understood through doing the one thing.

18th-century preacher George Whitefield called the one thing “The care of the soul.” He argued that this care of the soul not only helped us to know Jesus more intimately but had a direct effect on our conscience.

Said Whitefield, “The care of the soul is the one thing needful, because without it you cannot secure the peace of your own mind, nor avoid the upbraiding of your conscience."

We have a tendency to walk around with the weight of a guilty conscience for a lot of reasons. Some of this weight is due to our unconfessed sin, but the real weight on the conscience is the neglect of the one thing needful. Without it, argued Whitefield, you cannot have peace of mind.

That feeling you get when you think about the lack of time you spend reading the Word of God, praying, fasting, or memorizing Scripture is that lack of peace.

If, however, you attend to the one thing, the results are expected but extraordinary. Whitefield said,

Whereas, if this great affair were secured, you might delight in reflection, as much as you now dread it; and conscience, of your bitterest enemy, would become a delightful friend, and the testimony of it your greatest rejoicing.

When we attend to the one thing, we turn our bitterest enemy – our conscience – into a delightful friend.

We all want that. We’re just running in circles trying to find it while the answer has been living inside of us the entire time.

It’s the one thing.

It’s Jesus.

What do we do?

How do we attend to this one thing?

There are plenty of ways to do this, but I’ve found the best way to do this is to do it first.

When you start your day off with intentional significant time with Jesus you enter into the world with a soul that is well-fed. This not only helps you to combat the temptations of the world, but also helps you to see the world through the appropriate Christ-colored lens.

For one week, try to make the one thing the number one thing. Try to begin your day with scripture and significant amounts of prayer. If you need help praying, read this previous post on prayer.

If you have to wake up earlier than you do now, then do it.

If you have to go to be earlier so you can wake up earlier, then do it.

No amount of television, books, Facebook, Twitter, or any form of entertainment can even compare to spending time with Jesus. Those things are worthless if they are enjoyed at the expense of the one thing.  

As Pastor and Author Matt Chandler says, "Only a fool would exchange bottles of water for bars of gold in the desert.”

You won’t find yourself looking back thinking, “I really wish I wouldn’t have structured my day around God, and spent so much time with him.”

Instead, you’ll look back after a few weeks and think something more like, “I am closer to God than I thought possible. I don’t regret a minute I spend with him. I wish I had more time to sit at his feet.”

Granted, this is not the end-all-be-all to your lack of intimacy with God. However, it is the one thing that Jesus said was necessary.

Here’s your step for this week:

Wake up and make one hour at the feet of Jesus the priority for your day. Treat it as more essential than eating, drinking, brushing your teeth, and even breathing, because it is.

May our hearts never grow distant to him, and may we not choose anything over the one thing.  

Let us know in the comments below how you plan to attend to the one thing this week.