A quick internet search for “bible gratitude” and you’ll find lots of content on how we are to be grateful. True. But I already know that I’m supposed to be grateful. What I want to find are examples of gratitude. Perhaps when I see an example of this I can more easily apply it to my life. Then I read the account in gospel of Luke about the ten lepers.
Jesus is traveling to Jerusalem and encounters a group of lepers in a village. Leprosy was and is still a terrible disease. Although cases are less widespread today than 2,000 years ago, nevertheless remains devastating to the afflicted and his or her family and friends. The lepers call out to him, which would be the common protocol of the time. It was understood that the disease could be easily passed to another person by a simple touch or any physical contact (not quite as true as they believed), so lepers were often banned to live together but separate from all others. And when others were approaching, the leper was required to announce his condition so that he or she could be avoided. A humiliating life sentence.
The ten then shouted out to Jesus to have mercy on them. They seemed to believe, probably based on Jesus’ reputation that he had the power to heal. Jesus instructed the ten to “Go and show yourselves to the priests”, which they did. But only one returned to express his gratitude to Jesus for his being healed. In an odd twist, the gratefully healed leper was a Samaritan, which would have been a despised person by the early audience of the time.
One would think it would be natural to have gratitude and be willing to take the time to express it to the giver when cured of such a devastating condition. Yet nine of the ten did not bother to return. Incredible. After being relieved of this devastating disease, robbing them of nearly all social contact, only one returned to thank the one responsible. Jesus even expressed his surprise and disappointment in this. It seems to me that we learn a couple of things from this example.
First, gratitude may not naturally come to us. Sure, there are times in which we feel (key word, feel) grateful. But feelings aren’t always and often what we ought to use to govern our behaviors. And thank goodness we don’t always act on our feelings. The rates of infidelity and murder would probably go sky-high if that were the case. We are to be grateful (key word, “be”) even and especially times when we may not feel like it, but because we know the situation calls for it.
Secondly, gratitude is desired by the giver. Jesus didn’t need but seemed to want to receive gratitude from the other nine newly healed lepers. He asked, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” And when I receive the gratitude from those receiving socks I hand out at the homeless shelter, I am encouraged and spurred along to continue to give and think of others first. When someone gives to us, we can give back by offering our thanks. It seems to be the least we can do.
– An unedited excerpt from the book, “Those People – Lessons Learned from the Homeless” scheduled for release in the fall of 2018