Growing in Gratitude

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Luke 17:11-19

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers

11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, 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 made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Our daughter had the most awesome caretaker when she was a year old.  Her name was NeeCee and she was loved by each member of our family.  She did really creative activities with the three little girls that came to her house every day – like field trips in the stroller to the library and our family’s favorite – baking day!  She loved the girls like they were her own, but the very best thing she did was teach the foundation of gratitude.  At 14 months old, our little girl said “thank you” for every little thing she received because it was NeeCee’s expectation 100% of the time from the each of her kids, even the ones that belonged to the rest of us!

But saying thank you the way a toddler does is not what this story in Luke is referencing. First, let’s start with the 10 lepers.  10 lepers hanging out together and walking down the road – what a sight that must have been!  Lepers lived at the lowest rung of society during Jesus’ time, so they were most likely very desperate for relief from their probably painful and definitely disabling condition.  We don’t know from this story whether they were people of faith, or just people willing to ask for healing from any Tom, Dick or Harry.  But their display of belief becomes apparent as they do exactly as Jesus says when they ask him for healing (“Have mercy on us.”).

But why did only one of the healed lepers stop to show his appreciation to Jesus?  I mean, come on, they were HEALED and headed back up the social status ladder! I remember doing something really nice for a “close friend” when I was much younger and being shocked at the lack of gratitude showed to me for my sincere effort and sacrifice I made for this friend.  It ended our friendship because I was so downright bitter about the lack of gratitude, so I can only imagine how Jesus may have felt when only one took the time to say thanks.  It’s easy to look at this story and say that 1 out of 10 lepers had the decency to say thanks for the mercy, Lord.

I’m thinking that is not the best message to take away.  For me, I know that showing gratitude for my gifts can get lost in the excitement of receiving them.  I am often guilty of taking my gifts of grace and mercy for granted.  Jesus isn’t going around Samaria and Galilee and healing in order to get appreciation and we shouldn’t do our good works for others to fish for compliments either.  But there is a tangible effort in our relationship with others when we do take the time to appreciate them for what they do for us.  Our thanks is a great relationship builder with one another and most certainly, that holds true in our relationship with Christ as well.  Doing things for others is what we are called to do.  Showing our appreciation is the least we can do and one of the most powerful tools in relationship development.  And that holds true for our relationship as followers.  The appreciation can do much in the work of our relationship, showing our intimacy and closeness to keep mindful of our gifts of grace.

I choose to focus on the one healed person who turned back and recognized his gift of healing.  The other lepers probably partied all night long celebrating their good fortune in healing.  They may have thanked God for that gift as well.  But I bet the one who took the time to appreciate Jesus had the deepest blessing of a relationship with Christ – which in the end, is better than any physical healing anyway.  His gratitude did much in the way of working in faith with God.  Our challenge is to find ways to show appreciation to our friends, families and strangers, as well as to our Lord and Savior.  It seems to be the very minimum expectation and goes the longest way to having that deep relationship we want with God.

Healing God, you give us the grace mercy we never deserve through the loving gift of your son our Savior.  Help us to find the time and the strength to be grateful for our many gifts.  We want to deepen our relationship with you and know that our gratitude will help us grow closer to you every day.  AMEN.

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