“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well." Luke 17
The failing of the nine lepers was that they did not give glory to God for their healing. Their ingratitude stings like a slap to the face. In their moment of need, the nine likely would have done anything humanly possible to be rid of their leprosy. Once healed, however, they foolishly set their minds on themselves. Their ingratitude, sense of entitlement, speaks so loudly that even young children can see the fault of the nine. We also clearly see the worth of the one who came back to express his gratitude to Jesus.
Among the inglorious failings of human behavior, I find ingratitude to be particularly offensive. Perhaps you do as well. So, let us each take a moment and gaze into our heart and ask: “Am I guilty of being ungrateful? Do I feel entitled to what I possess, to what I have been given?”
Parents - Once I was a helpless infant. A day or two of neglect could have ended all my days. Yet my parents saw that I was cared for and loved. My grandmothers were faithful Christians, and through their service to the Lord, I was born to an earthly father who served God all of his days. My father taught me, by word and example, that the life of a Christian is rich, despite our misfortunes. As our parents age, it is our duty to serve them well, to show our gratitude. My wife unselfishly served her mother, who at the end of life was in most respects like the helpless child. It’s the cycle of life, when the child cares for the parent. We, who are now strong and independent, will one day need another’s help. Take care of those you can and be grateful to those who built the bridges we walk on.
Entitlement – We read of names given by society to different generations: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials… all just labels. I choose to see us as individuals, who determine by choice our character. One trait critically applied to more recent generations is that they possess a sense of entitlement. In the opening passage from Luke, one could say that the nine lepers lacked gratitude and may have felt entitled to their healing. To what are we entitled? After losing all, Job said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” In other words, we are not entitled to our possessions, family, or anything. What we have and hold is a gift from God. And when our mind is right on this point, our attitude and actions will follow the path of Job. We should thank and praise God each day for our blessings. Parents, treasure your children as a blessing from above. Children, tell your mother and father that you appreciate what they give, what they do for you. Express your gratitude in words and deeds. Learn to say “thank you” to parents and to all who treat you kindly. Not that they need it, rather that they deserve it.
One Another - From a young age, my circumstances taught me to be independent, self-sufficient. This quality has served me well in life, but when this strength is practiced to excess, it is a path that leads to ruin. God’s wisdom gave us the church, and with it the saints.
We are to “through love serve one another.” As with an earthly family, we help each other. We lift the weak and encourage the strong. And the issue is in dispute as to who enjoys the greater blessing: the giver or the one who receives? We have in the past travelled to the British territory of Bermuda. Our worship with the saints on this tiny island has always been one of the highlights of our trip. We were treated as if we were Royalty visiting from Buckingham Palace. If you are a Christian, you are never alone. Be grateful for each other. When a brother or sister serves, the body of Christ is served. Show your gratitude. Offer encouragement. Tell them you appreciate their effort in public service during the assembly or in good deeds to others.
Happiness – The oft forgotten key to happiness is to be grateful for what you have. Whether you have a fortune or a widow’s mite, gratitude is the great equalizer. Gail and I are blessed and today live a comfortable life, but we are no happier than when we attended college and possessed little. Paul said: “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” So should we. And never forget that all comes from God. Express your gratitude in prayer.
God - In times of need, we pray fervently to God for deliverance. But when the crisis passes, do we forget God’s divine providence? Does our relationship with God wane? I recall seeing the story of a man who died while donating a portion of his liver to a sibling. When the father of the two men shared the terrible news with the son, who lived because of his brother’s sacrifice, the father spoke these words: “Your brother is gone. But we still serve a good God.” God loves us as a parent loves a child, but even more. He gave us His only Son. Be grateful every day. We serve a good God.