Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Luke 17:17 (NRS)
We continue this week with our mini-series, “The Discipline of Gratitude” by further examining the practice of this allusive attitude. More specifically, we will explore how “thankful” language developed and the need for greater intentionality in displaying our gratitude in the world. Gratitude, as we defined it is an expression of thankfulness for benefits or goodness. God is our Eternal Benefactor providing us both good and perfect gifts. It is understandable that we should desire to express our gratitude to Him for all His many benefits (Ps. 103:1-6).
Interestingly, the concept of thankfulness is noticeably absent in the early writings of the Old Testament. Instead language that was ordinarily translated as “praise” such as yadah and todah was used to convey the concept of thankfulness for God’s works and character, often in contrast with human failures (Ps. 118). It would be later in the wisdom literature that God’s people would be encouraged to express purposeful gratitude for God’s provision and protection (Ps. 107:21-22; Eccl. 5:8-6:9).
In the New Testament the vocabulary for thanksgiving and gratitude expanded with the use of “thanks” (eucharisteo) and other terms such as “grace” (charis). Jesus thanked God for hearing His prayers (Matt. 11:25) and for raising Lazarus (John 11:41). The Gospels introduced and the Epistles developed the concept that gratitude for God’s deliverance in Christ characterizes the language of the believer (Col. 1:12-14). As God revealed Himself through His various dispensations, thankfulness and gratitude became a key response by creature man. This was true in the case of the one leper healed by Jesus in today’s text.
As Jesus passed through the region between Samaria and Galilee, ten lepers entreated Him to have “mercy on them”. They recognized the possibility of receiving beneficence from Jesus—He would help them in their affliction. Jesus “saw them”—He recognized their need in this dire circumstance—and then “sent them” to the priest to verify their healing. As they went, they were made clean. But one of them saw that he was healed and turned back to Jesus, praising (doxazo) God. He prostrated himself at Jesus feet and thanked (eucharisteo) Him. The one leper showed the proper response to Jesus’ act of grace (charis) but what about the other nine? Were they not grateful? Why were they not also praising God and thanking Jesus for their healing?
As you read the narrative of the Ten Lepers (Luke 17:11-19), who do you most identify with—the one leper who returned to thank Jesus or the other nine lepers? What stands in the way of your expressing gratitude to God? Do you attribute your accomplishments to your efforts and yours alone (pride)? Do you compare your current life circumstances with that of others and feel “cheated” of your rightful blessings (envy/covertness)? Are you dissatisfied and discontented with life desiring more than is currently yours (greed/thankless)? Let your expressions of gratitude mirror those of the one leper who could do nothing less than praise, worship, and thank God for all His goodness. Begin today practicing the language of gratitude so that when you enter heaven, your gratefulness will explode into joyful yadah and todah as you stand before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the One who made eternity possible for you (Rev. 19:1-6).
Good to the Last Byte…
What were the lepers thinking when Jesus “sent them” to the priest? They must have believed that they would be healed, or they wouldn’t have obeyed Jesus’ instruction. But Scripture says that only “one of them”, when he saw that he was healed, turned back. Had the other nine lepers failed see their healing or were they simply ungrateful? What’s your story? What possible reason can you have for not expressing gratitude to God?