Friday, July 8, 2022

One Thing Is Needed

[Originally published in the Monroe News on July 8, 2022]

Travel back with me to the 1990s and reminisce about arguably one of the funniest and most enjoyable movies of the decade.  For me it was an instant classic.  The movie I have in mind is City Slickers starring Billy Crystal.  Its a lovely story of 3 New York men going through mid-life crises who decide to join a guided cattle drive on a ranch out west.  Oh what fun they had!

Along their journey, Billy Crystal’s character Mitch talks to an old cowboy named Curly (played by Jack Palance) and the conversation goes like this:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
Mitch: No, what?

Curly (holding up one finger): This.
Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing.  Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t
mean s***t.
Mitch: That’s great but, what’s the one thing?
Curly: That’s what you gotta figure out.

The rest of the story largely revolves around Mitch’s journey to discover that one thing in his life and by the end he seems to find it in his wife and kids.  

Maybe we all have this pressing question in our lives.  What’s that one thing?  We might even share in the frustrations that Crystal’s character Mitch went through in trying to understand that one thing.  Life can feel wayward leaving us with a sense of being lost when we don’t have a clear idea of our one thing.  Our days may have us feeling like a boat adrift at sea just riding the wind and the waves wherever they take us.  Do we have a vocation in life that moves us and fills our passions to be that one thing?  Do we have a hobby or an interest, a pastime, that gets us up and going everyday?  Is it family and friends and the people in our lives that give us a clear sense of purpose and direction?

If I were to give a quick and honest answer to the question of the “one thing” in my life it seems like the quick answer would be something like: my pastoral ministry, or maybe it would be my wife and kids, or sometimes my personal passion of outdoor adventure.  Its so hard to figure out just one thing in our lives, isn’t it?  

It is possible there is wisdom found on a cathedral door in Milan, Italy.  There is a story of three inscriptions on these cathedral doors.  There is some debate as to whether the inscriptions actually exist or whether this is just story, but the message they share is certainly real and applicable.  The first of these inscriptions says “All that pleases is but for a moment.”  The second inscription says “All that troubles is but for a moment.”  And then it is said the third inscription, which is over the door in the center of it all, “Nothing is important save that which is eternal.”  I’ll let you digest the meaning of these three on your own.

I do believe the meaning of these inscriptions is real and truthful because of what Jesus Christ Himself says.  In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10, we find him in the house of Mary and Martha in a little village named Bethany.  There we find the one sister Martha playing host and worrying about all the responsibilities of hospitality.  The other sister Mary simply sits at the feet of Jesus to listen to Him teach.  Martha asks Jesus to correct her sister who isn’t helping.  But Jesus replies with a lesson that speaks to the third inscription aforementioned: “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. (Lk 10:41-42)”

One thing is necessary.  Jesus seems to agree with ole Curly the cowboy from City Slickers (or maybe its the other way around) that in this life there is this one thing that is most important above all.  While Curly the cowboy left that question to be discovered for each individual, Jesus has given us a clear answer, one that applies to all humanity.  The answer, that one thing necessary, is Jesus Himself.  Mary had chosen the good portion in sitting at the feet of Jesus to receive Him.  Jesus is the one thing necessary.  

What this means for you and for me is we have an answer to that emptiness we might be experiencing in our lives.  We have a cure to the loneliness or the waywardness that might be making our life seem purposeless.  We have a Savior, a Brother, and a Lord who reminds us we are made in His image and loved by Him which is the profound and wonderful and joyful answer to our struggles of value and worth in this life.  

Jesus is the one thing necessary.  And that’s a good thing.  Its the best thing.  He is a gift for all as we celebrate each Christmas.  He is a Savior who has died and risen for all to give all this free gift of eternal life.  I pray your search is over, your questions answered, and that one thing become clear in your life.

To God be the glory.

Mark Witte is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church.
You can contact him at

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