Thankfulness is Necessary — A Pastoral Note

[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.” — Luke 17:11-19 (ESV)

One of the most damning passages in Luke’s gospel regarding human pride and forgetfulness is the story of the ten lepers in chapter 17. While making their way to Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples met ten men with leprosy in a small village between Samaria and Galilee. Collectively, the men begged Jesus to have mercy on them. He answered their plea and cleansed them of their disease. Only one of them turned back to thank Jesus for his gift of grace and healing. The others went on their way to “show themselves to the priest,” as Jesus had instructed them. Troubled by the failure of the nine to return to thank him, Jesus asked the questions, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 

For Jesus, thankfulness is a central and mandatory characteristic for anyone who has been touched by his grace. The neglect of the nine lepers to return to thank him is telling as it reveals the true nature of their hearts before God. Surely, if asked, they’d all say they were grateful for the healing. How could they not be? Being cleansed of leprosy gave them their lives back. They could return to their families, to the Temple, to their jobs, to their community activities. But, they couldn’t be bothered to stop and give God thanks for the healing he specifically brought into their lives. Why is this? 

It seems that they struggled with the same phenomenon we battle. They were thankful for their healing. Felt it deeply in their hearts (I believe). However, they weren’t disciplined enough to go back to Jesus to say, “Thank you.” They simply couldn’t be bothered by it. After all, they were don’t what he told them to do. They were going to show themselves to the priest.  

I can’t help but note that the nine lepers’ failure to thank Jesus offended him. And, I’m not using the word offended in the same way we use it today. Their ingratitude literally wounded his heart and insulted his grace. Sadly, we often do the same thing. 

When we fail to express our thankfulness to Jesus for his great grace and work in our lives, we hurt him. It doesn’t matter whether our failure was intentional or not. It still has the same effect as it communicates our sense of entitlement. We, like the lepers, act as if we deserve God’s good works in our lives when we don’t. This arrogance, intentional or not, is an affront to the glory of God. We glorify him when we recognize our need for him, depend upon him, and thank him for his goodness to us. 

Take sometime today to thank God for his goodness and grace to you. Make your plans to join with his people on Wednesdays and Sundays to join the chorus of thanksgiving. He deserves more than we will ever be able to give him, and we certainly don’t want to offend him or rob him of his glory. 

Lord be with you. 

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