One Thing is Necessary
Distractions. I was talking about this tonight in Bible class. We all have distractions that we have to deal with. I’m thinking about little things that we do on a daily basis that tend to take us in the opposite direction of God.
When our family moved to Mississippi, we didn’t like the cable provider and so we just cancelled it. I missed an entire football season–college and professional. Or perhaps I should say that I didn’t miss it at all. I found that my life was enriched enough without it. I now like the idea that we don’t have cable television. It is one less distraction.
We could do without many other things as well, but we hang onto them thinking that we really need them, when in fact, we really do not. The truth is that we can survive just fine without such things, and there are many people in the world who do a great deal of surviving without all of the luxuries–yes, let’s call them what they really are–that we have.
In Bible class we opened to Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Someone referenced the “rich fool” of Luke 12:20. We remembered that Jesus said in verse 15, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” Then we turned to 1 Timothy 6:8: “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” This prompted me to have an imaginary conversation.
I wonder what is on God’s shopping list for me today:
That’s a pretty short list, Lord. Are you sure I can’t add some BlueRays and CDs to that? What about that latest digital camera? Let me look at that list again:
Nope, hasn’t changed.
And this is how we develop anxiety: by desiring things that cannot satisfy, pretending that we own something, and gradually replacing God with stuff until we are spending so much time managing these things that God is no longer in our life. Our life becomes about maintaining stuff, and we become anxious when such stuff is threatened.
What are our motivations for such living? The answer is really simple: the flesh. The flesh is what motivates us to seek such things because the flesh is selfish. The flesh desires what it lacks because that is what it does; it seeks to perpetuate itself. Our spirits, however, are not nourished by such behavior, but rather, starved.
Listen to what Paul says in Galatians 5:17: “For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” The spirit desires certain outcomes, but the flesh seems to always get in the way to thwart the spirit’s plans. This is why in verse 24 of the same chapter, Paul writes, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” If we want the spirit to succeed, we must crucify the flesh.
“Affections” is an interesting word here. The Greek word is pathema (πάθημα). It means that which one suffers or has suffered. It is often translated “passions.” ”Affections” are what we give to the things for which we are willing to suffer. In other words, we suffer with, put up with, endure the things that we love the most. When what we love the most is God, then our suffering with and for God separates us from things other than God. When that which we love the most is something other than God, then such sufferings separate us from God. Our passion must be God.
Nevertheless, feed the flesh; starve the spirit. Starve the flesh; feed the spirit. It really is an either/or proposition. ”No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).
“So you’re telling me that it is a sin to buy a DVD?” Well, it could be. It depends on why you are buying it and what you are using it for. If one is using it to gratify that flesh, it is a sin. This has profound implications, because it means that there are a whole slew of “innocent” things that are wrong if I am using them to gratify the flesh.
I’ll throw in another wrinkle. My intentions could even be right, and yet I could be wrong if I am rationalizing the gratification of the flesh with my good intentions. I’ve heard that good intentions make good pavement, but not in the right direction.
This all brings me back to what Jesus said to Martha in Luke 10:41-42, ”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.”
One thing is necessary. Martha had anxiety, trouble! Why? Wasn’t she serving? Wasn’t she helping? Wasn’t she doing? Her very “service” had become her god.
One thing is necessary. What was necessary? Studying? Hearing? Learning? Following? Serving? Working? Evangelizing? Preaching? Even these can become false gods if we assign value to them unassigned by God.
One thing is necessary. What did Mary choose? She chose Jesus. He is the one thing that is necessary. She chose the good portion because she chose the Lord.
“‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul. ’Therefore I will hope in Him’” (Lamentations 3:24).
God alone is necessary.