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With chaotic travel plans in place, thousands of turkeys prepped for slaughter, and hours of great football to be watched, it seemed most fitting to take a couple minutes to meditate on thankfulness.
The topic of thankfulness is found ubiquitously throughout the scriptures and if followers of Jesus are to be known for anything, surely thankfulness ought to be on the top of the list.
In Luke 17:11-22 we find a story about ten individuals infected with leprosy who have much to teach us about thankfulness.
Check the story out:
11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
So Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and he meets ten desperate people. Surly they had heard of this man Jesus who was healing all sorts of sicknesses and infirmities and they though perhaps they too could be healed. After healing all ten of them we are shocked to discover that only one returned to express his appreciation.
Here are just a couple thoughts to consider from this story.
What is thankfulness?
One dictionary put it like this, “Heartfelt gratitude to God, expressed in response to his love and mercy”.Thankfulness is a humble posture of the heart overflowing with appreciation in recognition of something extraordinary done on its behalf. Thankfulness is the fitting response to any act of mercy especially like the one recorded in the story above. Giving the magnitude of what Jesus had done for these individuals we would only expect that they would respond with thankfulness but shockingly, only one returned to him with gratitude.
What motivates thankfulness?
1. The measure of desperation
If you were to walk up to me right now and hand me a plain bologna sandwich insisting that I accept your gracious gift I honestly wouldn’t be that thankful. If you were to take that same sandwich to a slum in Calcutta it’s more than likely the recipient of your gift would be brought to tears bowing at your feet in appreciation. Why would they respond this way to something rather insignificant to me? Because they were starving and you meet their desperate need.Consider the desperate state of a leper in first century Israel. The meeting of their greatest need certainly should have provoked a deep sense of thankfulness.
2. The measure of the gift
We all had that well meaning relative growing up that would send a less than desirable gift. For me it was a distant Aunt that would send me a new nutcracker doll every year. Sure I would act appreciative, but a 9-year-old boy has no desire or need for a 6-inch wooden nutcracker. My parents on the other hand came through big time year after year; a new bike, a Nintendo 64, or as we got older straight up cash. My siblings and I were always truly thankful. The measure of our thankfulness was dictated by the size of what we received.What must it have been like to receive healing for these lepers? You could offer them all the riches in the world or healing from their disease and they would choose healing any day of the week. Being healed would have been the greatest possible gift imaginable and certainly should have provoked extraordinary gratitude
3. The measure of the giver
If you were to offer me a moistened sweatband from a recent workout session I would most certainly reject your gift. When I was about 10 years old my Dad took me to a FSU football game and we sat right behind the teams bench. After the game one of the players gave me one of his used sweatbands and it was the highlight of my day. I couldn’t stop talking about this awesome gift I had received, not because of the gift, but the perceived significance of the person who gave it to me.In this story consider the size of the giver. This wasn’t a doctor, a miracle worker, or even an apostle. This was the very Son of God who left the bliss of heaven to live among broken people like those in this story. The simple fact that the Son of almighty God took notice of these lepers is enough for prolific thankfulness. But he goes even further to heal them entirely of their disease.
Why Christians should be the most thankful people on the planet.
When we really think about it, you and I can relate to the people in this story on several levels.
First, when we consider our sinful condition we too are utterly desperate. We are a broken, sinful, guilty people. Like the lepers we are outcasts from Gods kingdom because of our sin and are guilty before God not because of an infirmity, but because of a record of disobedience. You and I are awaiting judgment and our only hope is if someone without sin takes our place. In our most desperate state Jesus rescues us, dies in our place and forgives our record of guilt… unfathomable.
Secondly we have received the most extraordinary gift imaginable. In our desperate state God didn’t just send us a good moral example, a 12 step program, or a list of ethical instructions…He sent his perfect Son. John 3:16 teaches us that Gods love for us was so great that he gave us his son, his one and only son, to save us from our sin. There is no greater gift to be received and he gave it to us gladly.
Lastly, consider the person who has taken notice of our desperate need.Not a celebrity, prophet, or mighty earthly ruler. The maker of heaven and earth has taken notice of us and given us his love. We ought to echo the psalmist who says, “What is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that you take notice of him”? The exalted King of the universe has taken notice of us and loved us so much that he died in our place.
In conclusion let’s embrace this story’s call to thankfulness. If those healed of their leprosy should have expressed their thankfulness to Jesus, surely we have who call him our savior should respond with the highest conceivable gratitude. Take a moment this week to offer your deepest praise to God in light of all he has given us in his beautiful Son.