The sun! Oxygen! Motor activity! Have to pee? How do/did you know? Neurons? From where?
Have you ever given an expensive present to someone who never thanked you for it? Most of us are guilty of the same indifference toward our gifts from God. God blesses His children in many ways — from our talents and resources to the assurance of eternal life in heaven. Yet how often do we half-heartedly acknowledge our gifts, then quickly forget the Giver?
In Luke 17, we read a story of Jesus’ interaction with ten lepers. In this passage, we have the opportunity to watch as one of the lepers fully realizes what Jesus had done for him, and we witness the exuberant thanksgiving that resulted.
To be sure, lepers were the outcasts of all outcasts. They were considered so detestable and contagious, they were prohibited from even approaching people for conversation, resorting instead to covering their mouths and yelling “Unclean!” so people would be aware of their presence.
Leprosy was not only a terrible physical disease, it also prevented people from social interaction. They were excluded from Temple worship and were separated from their families and communities. Leprosy left its victims utterly alone and without remedy for their disease.
Leprosy is not unlike a condition that is afflicting us, though ours is much graver. While the lepers were separated from Temple worship and the presence of God by their fleshly disease, we are eternally separated from God by our sinfulness. The commonality does not stop there. For both the lepers and us, our separateness finds healing exclusively through the power of Jesus.
When Jesus came to the lepers’ village, they kept their distance and shouted to Jesus at the top of their voices, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:13). When Jesus saw them, He instantly knew of their plight, misery, and isolation. Jesus also knew that the only way they could return to their homes and families, according to the Law, was to be declared clean by the priests. “Go and show yourselves to the priests,” Jesus told them, and the lepers went immediately (see Luke 17:14).
As the lepers traveled to the priests, they noticed that they were being healed! The wonder that came over them in the midst of their deliverance must have been tremendous. Perhaps they began to run even faster, anticipating their reinstatement into community, into family, into life! While the ten lepers celebrated, one was so overcome by the completeness of his healing, he turned and immediately rushed back to Jesus, before he even reached the priests. While returning to Jesus, the leper began praising God in a loud voice, without inhibition or restraint. When he finally reached Jesus, the leper fell down at His feet, continuing to offer praise and thanksgiving to Him.
When this Samaritan leper returned, Jesus was struck by the fact that none of the Jewish lepers did likewise. “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Jesus queried (Luke 17:17,18). Only one out of the ten lepers showed Jesus the gratitude He deserved. How often do we, too, fail to give Jesus heartfelt praise for our blessings?
How can we live a life that is truly thankful? First, we must consider the depth of our greatest blessing. The leper’s story of miraculous healing is remarkable — to see such a disease immediately eradicated in someone’s life is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Yet when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are healed even more completely! We were eternally separated from God by our sins, but Jesus has made forgiveness possible through His obedient sacrifice on the Cross.
Second, we need to make thanksgiving a priority. The leper didn’t wait to return to Jesus until it was convenient or until after he visited the priests. He went immediately to Jesus. The priests did not heal the leper, and he knew it. He returned to the only One worthy of his worship and thanksgiving.
Third, thanksgiving should be offered from the outpouring of our hearts. There was intensity in the leper’s worship because he was aware of his inefficacy to provide the healing he needed. How much more wonderful is the eternal healing for those who follow Christ? Let our thanksgiving be an enthusiastic celebration of Christ, who healed our direst need when we could not.
Finally, we must be consistent in our thanksgiving. The more intentional we are about offering thanks to God, the easier it becomes to see His blessings in our lives. That is why we are repeatedly commanded in the Bible to be thankful in all things. No one can bless us like our Heavenly Father. Let us be diligent in thanking Him for His grace and goodness.