How does one out of ten people, of similar circumstance, live with more gratitude than the majority? Would you call that uncommon? Does it represent a pattern we see today?
In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus heals ten men of leprosy. Leprosy was a flesh-eating disease that left it’s victim with a slow and miserable death-sentence. The stench was unbearable and the sight of physical decay along with missing body parts was not a pretty sight. The healing virtue of Jesus was the only cure and hope for these lepers.
Before we pity the lepers too much, we must remind ourselves of the leprosy of sin that we all carry too. Sin, left unchecked and unforgiven, is an aggressive virus that will yield noticeable destruction in our lives. The only One Who has concocted an antidote that will “cleanse” us is Jesus Christ with His finished work of the cross.
Here is the passage from the Message translation:
11-13 It happened that as he made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
14-16 Taking a good look at them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”
They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.
17-19 Jesus said, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?” Then he said to him, “Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.”
This passage reveals to us 7 Lessons from the Leper Who Gave Thanks….
1. Familiarity breeds thanklessness. When Jesus sent the ten lepers to the priests it infers that they were Jewish and yet this one man who came back to thank Jesus, was a Samaritan. Samaritans were a racially mixed society with Jewish and pagan ancestry (which was frowned upon by the Jews of their day). They worshiped Yahweh but were not a strict expression of the Mosaic Law for many reasons.
The Jewish lepers were more likely to be more familiar with Jesus because He spent more time in the region of Galilee. For a few of them, their familiarity may have calloused their heart and caused them to take Jesus for granted.
We need to be aware that the longer we follow Christ and are exposed to the things of God, the more susceptible we are to being hardened and thankless for His blessings in our life.
More than likely, the Samaritan had less time invested in Judaism than the others, but his heart was more tender and sensitive to God’s blessings.
2. Being grateful releases faith. When the Samaritan expressed his gratefulness, Jesus responded with, “Your faith has healed and saved you.” This act of saying “thank you” sealed the Samaritans faith in Jesus as the Messiah.
When we shortcut the giving of thanks, our faith does not fully develop in the midst of the Lord’s work in our life. Thanklessness gives opportunity for our sinful flesh to gradually dismiss God’s hand.
At first we think, “Did God really answer my prayer?”
Then we deceive ourselves with, “Maybe this was just a coincidence.”
Until finally, we completely forget the moments and memories of God’s faithfulness.
3. Instant Gratitude deflects a self-centered attitude. The Bible says “when he realized that he was healed, (he) turned around and came back…” The longer we delay gratitude, the more we encourage an entitlement attitude.
When our need is “satisfied” we are tempted to ignore the source of our help. My lack of giving credit indirectly leaves “myself” as the only one to whom “credit is due.”
Jesus was taken aback as He asked, “Were not ten healed? Where are the other nine?”
4. My “Thank You” volume should be louder than my cry of desperation. Before they were healed, the lepers kept their distance (according to law) and cried out to Jesus for help. When the Samaritan returned though, we see him kneeling at Jesus’ feet and we hear him shouting His praise.
There’s an interesting pattern I’ve noticed during my time in non-profit work. People give themselves permission to be undignified when they are in pain and despair, and yet, those same people suddenly become reserved, sophisticated and restrained in their praise, once God has solved their problem.
The nine other lepers who were healed were only bold and expressive in communicating their request. When it was time to give glory to God they were never heard from again.
Beloved, when you wholeheartedly understand what Christ has done for you, there is no script, no social etiquette or political correctness that can contain your worship.
5. Thanksgiving isn’t commanded by Jesus but it is commended by Jesus. It’s interesting to note that Jesus didn’t command them to return to Him and give thanks, but He affirmed it once it happened. Some could argue that if Jesus wanted them to return He should’ve of said so. After all, they followed His instruction to show themselves to the priests.
Jesus doesn’t want thanksgiving out of obligation. He doesn’t want to be your box that gets checked. He doesn’t want to be one of your chores to complete on your to-do list.
Jesus wants a relationship. He wants something real, spontaneous and organic. Imagine me making sure I thanked my wife once-a-week, every Sunday morning to express my heart of love and gratitude. That would be more of a mechanical approach than it would be to cherish her from a heart of love.
Jesus has thrown His boomerang of blessing over your life and He is waiting to see if you will allow it to lead you back to Him with a thankful heart.
6. Gratitude transforms when it endures. I wonder if a few of them who were healed started back towards Jesus but gave up because it was too far or because they found out Jesus had moved on to another village farther ahead. This would be similar to my own journey at times: Initially I am genuinely grateful, but it doesn’t last long enough to form a permanent attitude of gratitude.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “…in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” God’s will for your life is to shape the foundation of your character into a grateful person at all times. How long does gratitude towards Jesus live in your heart?
7. Thankfulness returns me to where I came from. The Samaritan’s return to Jesus brought him back to his place of pain. Although he was now healed, giving thanks to Jesus kept him grounded in where he had come from.
If God’s blessing in our life blinds us to our perspective of how far we’ve come in Christ, we will miss God’s will for our life: Thanksgiving.