In Luke 17, the Bible tells us of a time when Jesus came to a village near the border of Galilee and Samaria while on His way to Jerusalem. As he came into the village, ten lepers were shouting to Him in the distance. They pleaded with Jesus to heal them saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"
Jesus responded by commanding them, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." No doubt this gave the lepers great cause for hope. Under the Old Testament regulations regarding lepers, there was no reason for a leper to go to the priest unless some change had occurred in his status. Leviticus 13 and 14 detail the tests for leprosy, the quarantine associated with it and the sacrifices to be given in the case of cleansing. The same trust that led them to seek healing from Jesus led them to do as He said and go to the priests. The text shows how their hope became a reality in the following words:
And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan (Luke 17:14-16).
Jesus noted the ingratitude manifested by the rest of those healed by asking, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?" (Luke 17:17). All should have returned to give thanks for the great miracle done upon them and to glorify God for His mercy, but only one did so.
When we think about the dreaded nature of leprosy, it increases our understanding of the appalling lack of thanksgiving on the part of the nine. Leprosy was a disease which caused one to be disfigured as skin dried up and finally rotted off. It was not uncommon for fingers, toes and sometimes limbs to be lost to the disease. Lepers were banished to isolation in separate colonies. Their existence was one of continual misery.
It is hard to overestimate the great gift Jesus bestowed upon these ten men by healing them. It made possible a normal life both physically and socially where none was possible before. More importantly, the healing made possible their participation in the gatherings so much a part of worshiping God according to the old law. No doubt the joy of the moment so overwhelmed the nine that they were caught up in it, forgetting the source of their blessing. The Samaritan man, however, made a priority of expressing his thanks. The fact that the one showing gratitude was a Samaritan would not have been overlooked by the Jewish crowd surrounding Jesus. The Jews despised the Samaritans, but it was the very man so despised by them who taught these Jews a needed lesson about humility and thanksgiving. Often the one who has the least appreciates most the gifts and blessings received, for he truly recognizes their value.
As we just celebrated last month the holiday we call "Thanksgiving," we should examine ourselves to see if we properly express our thanks for our many gifts and blessings. Are we more like the nine who gave no thanks or the one who returned? Is thanksgiving for our gifts a regular part of our lives or do we think about it only at this time of year?
The Bible plainly declares that we should be characterized by thanksgiving. Paul commanded the Christians in Thessalonica, "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). He told those in Colossae that they must always be "abounding in thanksgiving" (Colossians 2:7). In the next chapter, the apostles continue to urge their expressions of thanksgiving to God (Colossians 3:15, 17). The psalms are replete with examples of thankfulness expressed to God for all of His great gifts. For instance, notice the words of thanksgiving uttered in the 100th Psalm:
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
And into his courts with praise:
Give thanks unto him, and bless his name.
For Jehovah is good; His lovingkindness endureth for ever,
And his faithfulness unto all generations (Psalm 100:4-5).
Regardless of what some might think, we are not the source of the good things that come our way. James tells us the origin of every true blessing in life:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1:17).
Anything we legitimately enjoy in this life can ultimately be traced back to God as the source. Whether in the physical or the spiritual realm, God is the giver and we are the recipients of His grace.
For this reason, we are given these instructions: "Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name" (Hebrews 13:15). No matter how many people go on in life enjoying the gifts and blessings which come from God without any gratitude expressed, Christians have a responsibility of continual thanksgiving to God.
The results of a thankless society are recorded in Romans 1. "Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:21-22). This describes those today who foolishly reject God, just as it described those in the first century.
The corrupt nature of a thankless society is clearly presented in the remainder of that first chapter of Romans. Anytime people fail to recognize God as the source of blessings, they will also fail to submit to His will. The result will be lives led by selfish desires and disregard for others. Ingratitude not only corrupts the individual it also corrupts a society. Our country has for some time denied God's rule and we must change!
Let us determine to live our lives as the one who returned in thanksgiving to glorify God for the blessings received. By so doing, we can provide an example of thankfulness which can teach those around us and ultimately our nation just as that Samaritan did so long ago. Our lives should manifest a thankful spirit, not only at Thanksgiving, but every day we live by the grace of God. The fact that He created and sustains this world through countless blessings from above is enough to evoke a grateful response. The fact that He has blessed us with the gift of His Son and every spiritual blessing flowing from Christ should cause us to abound with thanksgiving and praise both day and night as we appreciate the multitude and magnitude of His great grace. "Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15).
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