One Thing

It’s been almost a quarter century since the movie City Slickerscame out in 1991. If you’ve seen it, you will probably remember the classic scene that defined the movie. If you haven’t, then consider this a spoiler-alert, 24 years late.

In the movie, Billy Crystal plays a confused, dissatisfied thirty-something character with a vague sense that life is passing him by. In a quest to find some excitement in his life, he gathers a few of his New York “city slicker” friends and heads to a special ranch out west for a cattle round-up, cowboy style. It’s a genuine Wild at Heart-type experience.

In that memorable scene, the character played by Jack Palance–Curly, an old, tough, leathery cowboy who is wise to the ways of the world–asks Mitch (Crystal’s character) if he would like to know the secret of life. “It’s this,” Curly says, holding up his index finger. “The secret of life is your finger?” asks Mitch, with typical New York sarcasm. “It’s one thing,” Curly replies. “The secret of life is pursuing one thing.”

Somehow that really clicks deeply with Crystal’s character. His life is scattered. He is torn between his obligation to his family and his desire for career advancement; between his need for security and his appetite for excitement. He is divided and emotionally fragmented. His life is about many things, and so, he senses, it is about nothing.

So what is the one thing? Curly can’t tell Mitch, in the movie. “You have to find it yourself,” he says.

And so too must we.

The book of James in the New Testament tells us that a “double-minded man is unstable in all his ways,” and most of us can identify. Dutch philosopher Soren Kierkegaard saw double-mindedness as the essential disease of the human spirit. That disease, he wrote, was the failure to achieve simplicity–to have a life that is integrated, that is focused on one thing, what he called “the Good.”

That sounds familiar. When Martha was frantically trying to work to get her house in order for Jesus while her sister Mary just sat at His feet listening to Him teach, Martha was quick to express her frustration. Jesus answered that Martha was distracted by too many things, and that she needed to focus on “one thing,” that is, the “good” of fellowship with Him. (Luke 10:41-42)

Perhaps some of us need to heed the words of Jesus…and of Curly. In our stressed-out, over-committed lives, maybe we would all do well to simplify, to “seek first His kingdom,” trusting that everything else will take care of itself. (Matt. 6:33)

My prayer for you this week is that Jesus will be the One Thing in your life, and that you will be fully satisfied with the life you live in Him. I’ll see you Sunday.
–Pastor Ken