“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Luke 17:15-16
As you get into the full swing of Christmas gift shopping, I am fairly sure most of you have experienced someone in your past or present for whom you have no idea what to give them; primarily because they seem to have everything you would think of or could afford to buy. The Psalmist expresses God’s total-sufficiency in Psalm 50; his need of nothing from yours or anyone else’s hand, except for this ONE thing, the praise of unconditional thanksgiving! Such praise acknowledges who He is and the blessings He has bestowed on you because He loves you. What is more, your unreserved and unconditional thanksgiving to the Creator and Master of your soul returns to you abundantly more than you can ever imagine, as it transforms who you are beyond all expectation. This historical account of ten leprous men who begged Jesus for healing shows both the result of thanksgiving and the ugliness of ingratitude with a burdensome loss to the ungrateful.
Many lessons arise from this account of the ten lepers’ encounter with Jesus; and surely some of these lessons are able to penetrate your thoughts and affect your life as you approach another Thanksgiving celebration as well as the nature of your life every day. All ten men showed some faith in responding to Jesus’ directions. They each did what Jesus said in starting out still unhealed to present themselves to the priests, apparently in Jerusalem, a lengthy walking journey away. While they were on the road to Jerusalem they were healed. The priests according to Levitical laws were able to declare them leprosy-free and permitted to reenter social life within their community with a clean bill of health, or, on the other hand, they could declare them still unclean, and consequently alienated from society as they had been. The ten lepers started on their journey still unhealed with the fear in their minds that the priests would formally judge them unclean (infectious), declaring them (still) ostracized from their community; a place of continual humiliation and shame. They started the journey out of obedience to Christ’s words, and nine of them as their healing became apparent quickened their pace toward Jerusalem, now with a certainty of being declared clean by the priests with an immediate return to a much-hungered-for-reunion with family and friends. You can see how this hope would capture their complete attention over all else, even the remembrance of how their healing was accomplished. Yet one of them (only 10%) knew what was absolutely more important than anything else. All thanksgiving and gratefulness springs from a heart which clearly recognizes, as this one grateful leper, from whom all blessings flow!
Take note of the result of the one leper’s overwhelming thankfulness to the Healer who had made his skin and body clean; Jesus said to him as he expressed humble, exuberant thanks to Jesus, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well. It appears here that nine were cleansed from leprosy, but one was cleansed from sin as well. He was made clean in both body and soul for eternity. The other nine missed out on the most important part of their healing. Their estimation of earth and its temporary joys exceeded their estimation of heaven and complete healing. Even a common sense realization of the true source of their healing from a gruesome physical disease, combined with a genuine appreciation for what Jesus alone was able to do, should have turned their feet back as it did the Samaritan. Instead, in their minds the return to thank Jesus was too inconvenient and time consuming in slowing their journey to the priests and the eagerly anticipated reunion with their family and friends.
Does this bring to mind any of your own practices of Thanksgiving? Consider what consumes your actions and priorities when you are engrossed in family holidays and celebrations, or even the business of everyday living. Too frequently family and friends and personal holiday habits take precedence over “exuberant thanksgiving to Him whom we only access by faith and from whom all good gifts come. To lead your family by first priority to a more than cursory praising and thanking of the Lord who has blessed you, sets an example for all of them to follow in their own lives. Are you a follower of this one leper who returns first to offer thanksgiving with no restrictions and with obvious great joy, before heading off to do those things with family and friends which are truly secondary to the “most important thing?
Think on this as you rethink Thanksgiving or do a Thanksgiving Redux next week. Consider the example of the ten lepers, the nine and the one. Very possibly this Thanksgiving will be more transformative than Thanksgivings past; and your daily life will be more shaped by thankfulness than misshaped by ingratitude. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
“Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh,
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember’d not.
(King Lear, from As You Like It, Shakespeare)
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