One Essential Thing
At the end of March, our local government proclaimed a statewide “a Stay Home – Stay Healthy Order.” One part of this order prohibited citizens from leaving their hopes to participate in “spiritual” gatherings of any kind regardless of numbers. It further declared that “all non-essential businesses” in the State were henceforth prohibited from conducing business. Following this order, the state provided a list of businesses and/or activities considered “essential” and, therefore, excluded from the impact of the order.
Although protected by the United States Constitution, gathering for worship as the church was not considered “essential” enough to make the list.
In the midst of this pandemic, all that we once considered “essential” has been restricted, banned, or otherwise taken away. And yet, life goes on. This new restricted life is not without social or economic consequence, but one thing is for certain, much of we once considered essential to our lives is proven to be superfluous. Spiritually speaking, many of the practical rhythms that once characterized our relationship with God and His people have also been disrupted. And even though we long to return to what we once deemed essential to our faith, we have been afforded an opportunity to evaluate what truly is.
Jesus addressed “essentialism” in Luke 10.38-42
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 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.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Two sisters are hosting Jesus at their home. One sister, Martha, is working hard to clean the house, prepare the meal, so as to serve her guests. Whether there is actually a lot to do or not is uncertain, but what is certain is that Mary is distracted and anxious about doing what she has deemed necessary or “essential” to honor Jesus. Her sister Mary, on the other hand, is not distracted or anxious. From Martha’s perspective, Mary is lazy, inconsiderate, and wasting time. But, in the words of the Lord, “…on thing is necessary, Mary has chosen the good portion.”
If I’m honest, I resonate more naturally with Martha than Mary. In all honesty, I think much of my spiritual life is devoted to distracted by “doing” for the LORD that I often fail to simply ‘be” with Him. And while I do believe that the Lord is pleased with our doing, like a Father who appreciates his children’s efforts to honor or please him, I wonder if he views a lof of what we do as “un-essential” and even a hindrance to what is.
During this pandemic, I’m not sure us pastors are remembering this truth. With all of their “essential” activities restricted, ironically, I see pastors busier than ever. Blogs. Vlogs. Zoom Meetings. Online Devotionals. Virtual Bible Studies. New Ministries. Strange Music Videos. The list goes on. I am just as guilty of trading one set of “essential” activities for “another.” I don’t think this is the time to do more in order to feel like we are honoring our Lord or justifying our role. Perhaps this is the time to be about “ONE THING” and encourage those we care for to do the same.