“One Thing” of Importance

WE HAVE CHOSEN for consideration four instances in the Scriptures where the importance of “one thing” is stressed as essential to a walk of faith and devotion to God. Certainly all of these are important to us as New Creatures in Christ Jesus.

(1) In Psalm 27:4 David wrote, “One thing have I desired.” This ‘one thing’ was to “dwell in the house of the Lord,” and to “inquire in his temple.” Here we have the thought of contemplation, as in the case of the Israelite approaching the Tabernacle and high priest for cleansing.

(2) Jesus said to the young ruler, “One thing thou lackest.” (Mark 10:21) The man with riches found renunciation too taxing, representing all those who discern what is required in full devotion to God, and fail to take action.

(3) To Martha Jesus said, “One thing is needful.” (Luke 10:42) Mary chose that ‘one thing,’ which was to become better acquainted with her Lord and his teachings. This corresponds to those who dwell inside the Holy of the Tabernacle, feasting upon the shewbread, enjoying the light from the golden candlestick, and offering incense of devotion, obedience, and prayer upon the golden altar.

(4) Paul wrote, “This one thing I do.” (Phil. 3:13) Paul was determined that nothing would deter him from his course of faithfulness, and thereby attaining the “prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (vs. 14) Paul, like Mary, continued to the end to offer the affections of an endearing heart.

In David’s desire, we have contemplation of God. The wealthy inquirer for eternal life lacked consecration. With Mary, there was complete contentment and satisfaction; and with the Apostle Paul, determination and endurance. Thus, four important steps in our walk are revealed.

In each instance there is singleness of purpose and concentration. To concentrate assures success in a general way, because one’s energies are thus centered on one objective, one department, one issue, one end—affording a clear vision of the particular objective in view, and the procedure for gaining that objective.

In the Christian’s life, where the objective is Christ, its fruitage is clearness of Truth and cleanness of life and walk. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine [teaching].” (John 7:17) “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (I John 3:3) “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”—John 8:32

The Word of God is light and life. It is “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) To read the Word of God and to meditate its maxims proves it to be a mirror of the human heart, thus assisting one’s reasoning faculties in arriving at a correct understanding of one’s relationship to God, with a right appreciation of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

All appreciating this revelation from God’s Word adjust their habits and ways of life thereto, and become, by its influence in the mind and heart, clearer and purer in mind and life, as Jesus remarks, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”—John 6:63

The Word of the Lord and the Spirit of Truth will always be the sources of light and life to every man, and the natural trend of thought of a perfect man in ages to come. “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Prov. 4:18) “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Ps. 119:105) “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”—Ps. 119:11


This was David’s longing aspiration and quest: “One thing have I asked of Yahweh [Jehovah], that will I seek to secure: that I may dwell in the house of Yahweh all the days of my life, to view the delightfulness of Yahweh, and to contemplate in his temple.” (Ps. 27:4, Rotherham Translation) To ‘contemplate’ is to consider studiously, to meditate, to give time and attention. It is also the act of looking forward with a longing heart for some desired objective.

Surely David’s longing and quest should also be our longing desire. It should be constantly with us, as an urge of soul, to know God more fully, and to enjoy his favor and blessing in unbroken communion. To experience the conviction of faith expressed by Jesus is an honored privilege for imperfect men. “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”—John 14:23

Our spiritual life has first to do with our heart and faith, our inner desires and affections. Paul said, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” (Rom. 10:10) Jesus, in his sermon on the mount, declared, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Matt. 5:6) “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord.”—Ps. 84:2


Let us notice the great objective of David’s desire. It was to behold the beauty of the Lord. Rotherham translates it, ‘the delightfulness of Jehovah.’ God’s dealings with David hitherto had revealed God’s name as known to past patriarchs, and his graciousness, his compassion to fallen men. His attributes of wisdom, justice, and love drew from David adoration, worship, and praise. He desired to inquire in the Lord’s temple; to contemplate in his temple; to have accurate information and understanding of God’s desire from man in worship, obedience, and submission. The great urge of David’s being was to erect a temple for worship; but God, in his graciousness, is to build David a “house” forever.—I Chron. 17:12; II Sam. 7:1-16

May we continue to inquire of God and contemplate through his Word, and, by his Spirit, meditate upon and cultivate habitual thoughts of God and his purposes for us and for man. How wonderful is the power of thought and meditation! “Whatsoever things are true, … honest, … just, … pure, … lovely, … of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there by any praise, think on these things: … and the God of peace shall be with you.”—Phil. 4:8,9

We read in Malachi 3:16,17, “They that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, … and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” To behold the delightfulness of Jehovah, and to inquire in his temple, is a lofty aspiration and a worthy quest.

With Israel, the Tabernacle was the meeting place between themselves and God. A true Israelite would always be in contemplation of his God. The Law of God would be his constant meditation. We read, in Deuteronomy 6:8, that it was to be as “frontlets” between his eyes. He was to talk of it by the wayside, and in the house, and to his children, when lying down and rising up, lest he forget the Lord.

The psalmist wrote, “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.” (Ps. 119:15) And again, “My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate upon thy promise.” (Ps. 119:148, Revised Standard Version) Surely his nights were filled with sweet communion, and his days with meditation upon the Law of God in which he delighted. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”—James 4:8


‘One thing thou lackest,’ Jesus said to the rich young ruler. This indicates a need. It was after the incident of Jesus blessing the children, and he had gone on his way, that this young man came “running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17) Doubtless the young man came with an earnest desire to inherit life, but with certain reservations.

How often it is the holding to some cherished desire which prevents one from enjoying the sweetness and restfulness of decision to do the Lord’s will. This young man’s request, ‘What shall I do?’ was natural. It is the first thought that occurs to most people when the mind and heart turn to the Lord and righteousness.

To the young man, Jesus quoted from the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.” The young man answered, “All these have I observed from my youth.” Jesus looked upon him and loved him, and said, “One thing thou lackest.” Finally, closing with a test, Jesus said, “Go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up thy cross, and follow me.”—vss. 19-21

When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. The one thing he lacked was renunciation of self—a full resignation of all he had and was. Jesus could not say, “Be my disciple,” until he had secured from the young man his full devotion. So the test was applied. How true it is that “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit”!—Rom. 14:17

Jesus said to the young ruler, ‘One thing thou lackest: … sell whatsoever thou hast.’ “The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.”—Matt. 13:44

It might have been hoped that this lofty counsel would have aroused the young man to devotion and sacrifice, but the test required more than he was prepared to give. It was precisely the least expected, and a thousand times harder than any legal enforcement that could be imposed. The young man was ready to do, but there were certain reservations. In his case, he had great possessions, none of which can be retained in true consecration to God, or true renunciation of self. Jesus said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.” It remains what it was, a corn of wheat, “but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be.”—John 12:24-26

This one thing—that is, wholeheartedness in consecration—will, in the age to come, also need to be taken into account with all who anticipate everlasting life. It will always be the first maxim of life. “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. … this do, and thou shalt live.”—Luke 10:27,28


“One thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42) Whatsoever may be said of the contrast between these two women, Martha certainly shared the piety of her sister Mary, evidenced by the fact of her welcome and loving desire to serve even in temporal needs and refreshments for her Master. It was merely that she failed, just then perhaps, to rise to such a high conception of the nature and dignity of their illustrious friend, and busied herself with the practical cares of life to such an extent that Jesus considered it excessive. “Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? … But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”—Matt. 6:31-33

Martha, anxious for the comfort of her guest, was absorbed in every detail of hospitality to please, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to listen to his words of counsel and love. She may have remembered some other words of Jesus: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”—Matt. 4:4

The busy, motherly Martha, seeing Mary thus seemingly careless, felt an annoyance, unworthy of her usual self. A word to her sister would probably have been sufficient to secure her interest and help. Instead, Martha—and who does not at times?—came rather impatiently with a complaint, “dost thou not care?” as though Jesus had encouraged Mary to neglect duty.—Luke 10:40

Jesus replied wisely and lovingly, Martha, Martha, my wants are easily satisfied, and it is better, like Mary, to choose the one thing needful first: the supreme concern for the things of God, for these alone can never be taken away, and Mary has made this her choice. ‘Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’

Let us learn the lesson: the cares of this life are dangerous, even when they seem to be needful and commendable. Nothing could have been more proper and delightful than for Martha to provide for the Lord’s temporal needs, when required. Yet, even this, where too much time and effort were spent, might be gently reproved. “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”—John 6:27

It is indeed more important to attend to the instructions of the Lord Jesus than always to be engaged in the affairs of the world, home, and self. The one will abide forever, the others only for a while. If devotion be omitted at the proper time, it may be always omitted. If Mary had neglected just then, she may never again have heard the same words of counsel and life.

Mary enjoyed the sweetness of satisfaction and contentment of those fully resigned to the Lord’s will, and represents those dwelling in the “secret place of the most High” (Ps. 91:1), most beautifully pictured in the Holy of the Tabernacle, feasting upon the shewbread, the Word of God, the sustaining power of life, enjoying also the illumination from the golden candlestick—the light of the glory of God.—II Cor. 4:6

Let us seek to dwell there more and more continuously, remembering the assurance of Jesus, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:23) “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another.” (I John 1:7) This is truly a needful thing for the Lord’s saints. It is here in the school of Christ that we need his Word, his Spirit. Creeds leave us cold and disappointed. Christ gives warmth and life.


“This one thing I do,” wrote Paul, “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13,14) One of the predominating characteristics of the Apostle Paul was determination. He was firm, resolute, decisive. Whatever decision he made, all his energies were directed to achieve the end in view.

He explained to King Agrippa that before his conversion, as Saul of Tarsus, he persecuted the church of Christ and “punished them oft in every synagogue, … being exceedingly mad against them.” He added, “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” (Acts 26:11,9) Thus did Paul witness against himself and his misdirected zeal.

On another occasion, when he planned to go to Jerusalem to be there on the day of Pentecost, he found that in every city he visited the Holy Spirit testified that bonds and imprisonment awaited him in the holy city. But he was determined to go, and said, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus.”—Acts 20:16,24

The Apostle Paul, like the rich young ruler, enjoyed certain possessions. Obstacles almost insurmountable were put aside and removed for Christ, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him.”—Phil. 3:8,9

Paul enumerated those things that could have been hindrances to him in the Christian way and life, but they were all disregarded for Christ. His talents, fame, possessions, and social rank, had all been put away years before writing this letter to the church at Philippi. Paul determined to do ‘one thing,’ and was triumphant.

“If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Phil. 3:11) What a wonderful example Paul has been to all the Lord’s dear saints, especially to those called of God to that high, holy and Heavenly Calling in Christ Jesus, whose urge of soul had been, and still is, in zealous contemplation, resignation, satisfaction and loving devotion, with full and complete submission to do God’s will as revealed in his Word.

In consecration of himself and of all human aspirations, Paul gave evidence of being completely satisfied with Jesus and his teaching. So was Mary with her Lord and Master. He is to all such the “lily of the valley, the fairest of ten thousand,” who, contented, enjoy sweet and unbroken communion and fellowship with Christ Jesus, even though often deprived of many material comforts.

May we be resolute and determined, steadfast and unmovable, with sobriety and watchfulness. May we be established in the faith, offering incense in every experience at the golden altar, pouring out the affections of an endearing heart of gratitude and praise to God, and to our beloved Redeemer and Lord.

Let us, in our daily walk before the Lord, maintain to the end an increasing contemplation of God, his will, and his kingdom. Let us complete our resignation to his will for us, fulfilling our renunciation of self and consecration to our Heavenly Father.

May we be completely satisfied in all things under the providence of God as Mary was, making our High Calling of God, and our response, the most cherished delight of our life, looking always for “that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”—Titus 2:13

Dawn Bible Students Association
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