“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 4but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
** Digression from many to few, then to one
The digression here is one being worried and upset about "many" things, then the Lord presenting the solution by literally reducing the number from many to few then even to one thing that is needed.
** Want vs. need
The 'many' concerns what Martha 'wanted', whereas according to the passage, the 'few' or even the 'one' has to do with what is 'needed'. What you want embrace 'many', but what in fact is 'needed' could be 'small' in number.
This seems to be and indeed is the way the Lord designed the way of life. After all isn't it the Lord who said this the author of life?
** Worry and upset vs. peace and joy (of life)
What is at stake is the quality of life, for when one is worried and upset one ends up hurting not only his life but that of his neighbor. Medical doctors also say that worry causes stress, stress causes distress, distress causes sickness, and so on.
** Plenty vs. all
The episode involving Martha and Mary reminds me of the Jacob's struggle at the Jabbok River. As he was about to meet Esau he became worried. He was so stressed out, that he literally did somersault all night all by himself.
But by the time he met Esau the next day his mental condition changed like night and day, so he said, "seeing your face is like seeing the face of God". Genesis 33:10 He said this presenting a huge amount of gifts to Esau who in turn said, "Oh, no, no. I already have plenty, Please take these back for you/your children." But Jacob insisted on receiving by saying, "I have all I need. Please take the gifts." Then Esau accepted. One Rabbi (I forgot his name) brought to highlight the difference between 'plenty' vs. 'all'. Esau said "I have plenty' whereas Jacob said "I have all I need." 33:11 Later the Apostle Paul also said the same thing in talking to the Philippians. Phil. 4. There in fact he even said, "I have all I need and 'more'."
What is the difference between all and plenty? Plenty screams out one being in the state of being in want, whereas all refers to the fullness (of life), lacking nothing.
Question becomes: "What is responsible for the change to Jacob?" We know the answer: during the night he spent at the Jabbok River, he had a wrestling match (or the angel of the Lord or simply the Lord spent time with Jacob, so Jacob would meet and have the Lord with him. Interestingly Jacob's encounter with the Lord came after he had finished moving to the other side of the river 'all' he had (accumulated so far at Paddan Aram) - his four wives, children, servants, possessions like donkeys, camels, everything. Many were on the other side of the river, only one left.
** What is needed?
This leaves the question: "what is indeed needed?" Mary saw it and secured it: being seated at the Lord's feet and listening to him.
Recall then the episode in the Garden of Eden, where the devil tempted Eve, so that Eve ended up going for what she wanted, that is, eating from the tree of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, and thereby losing access to the tree of life! She along with her husband was cut off from the source of life, that one thing that is needed.
** The Battle
Therefore there is a battle even a war going on. Just as Martha her close sister attacked Mary (by even praying to the Lord) only to steal away from Mary what she needs for life! In the same way in such a subtle way the serpent embodying the devil tempted Eve to fall. Likewise, when Jesus came the devil, the good old serpent, came to Jesus while Jesus in the desert, and tempted Jesus to go for many, rather then for that one thing that is needed:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”Jesus said to him,
But Jesus rejected him saying: “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"
** Applications in this information age
I got rid of the 'cable' TV long time ago. But still I keep "so many" apps on my smartphone. Are they all 'needed'? Plus, I am tempted to check all different sources of news like CNN, CMbrowser, Omni, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and so on. Do I need to do this all the time? In addition, I am obsessed with garage 'sale', and just as it is impossible for a bird to pass by farm barn, so also it is hard for me to ignore the 'huge estate sale' being advertised at the Shingletown this coming Saturday! It is said, 'One man's trash is another man's treasure'. But do you need all or any of them?