Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! (Luke 17:11-13).
<p>Many readers will recognize the beginning of the famous Where are the Nine story. Jesus did have mercy on those leprous men, all condemned to a terrible death. He healed them in a marvelous display of both compassion and power. Unfortunately, only one of the lepers returned to thank Jesus for the priceless gift He had given the lepers. So it is easy to imagine Jesus sighing deeply as He asked quietly Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? (Luke 17:17).</p>
In a time of matchless material blessings and the incredible spiritual blessings found in Jesus how often do we mirror the one grateful leper and how often are we numbered with the nine? When is the last time you thanked God for a positive response to your prayers? How long has it been since thanksgiving overflowed your heart causing you to want to worship, and to worship with fervency? I fear that most of us may find that we do not exemplify the attitude of gratitude like we should. Why not? May I suggest three reasons that we are not as grateful as we should be?
<h2> First, we are like those around us. </h2> <p>Our society is not a thankful society. We aren’t satisfied or pleased with our material blessings, blessings that have been showered upon us in an unprecedented way. Ask people what they want and they can provide a laundry list in seconds. Ask them for what they are thankful and you ll get a blank stare. Whining and complaining is what most folks are about today. As Christians we must do better than that. We cannot be crushed into the world’s mold (Romans 12:1-2) but instead need to rise above such. Think: where would we be without the Lord? don’t limit such thinking to physical and material blessings, but consider especially the riches in Christ Jesus. What if we could not pray? What if God didn t listen and didn t care for our needs? What if we did not have the Bible, and could not read it and find God? What if we did not have one another in Christ, a church of disciples serving and working together? The majority walked away from Jesus but one man refused to do what everyone else did. He refused to accept a great gift without being grateful for it. We too must rise above the crass callousness we see all around us. I must remember what is most important and be thankful for it.</p> <h2> Second, we get too busy with obedience. </h2> <p>Where is the emphasis in our sermons and Bible classes? We hurry to emphasize obeying God. Yet note that is exactly what the nine ungrateful lepers were doing. So when He saw them, He said to them, Go, show yourselves to the priests. And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. (Luke 17:14). The Law demanded they do this and Jesus told them to do it. So they were just doing being obedient, right? Sometimes we just get too rushed to be truly thankful. Often that means we are busy doing exactly what God told us to do. We are busy being good moms and dads, and earning a living, and caring for kids, and fulfilling all sorts of responsibilities that we find in scripture like going to church and reading our Bibles and praying and talking to others about Jesus. Whew! By the time we get all the doing done we end up like the nine we re obedient but we are also not very thankful. I want to suggest that obedience w/o gratitude is a dangerous place to be. In Revelation 2:2-3 the church at Ephesus was found lacking by Jesus. They were doing lots, and were obedient in many ways. But they had lost their first love (2:4). This church wasn t told they needed to do more. The answer here is a return to an attitude, to something in the heart, to an overflowing fervency that comes from gratitude. This is not a small matter by any measure. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that if we aren’t motivated and fired by gratitude to God we won t be able to do much outwardly for long. We will become empty disciples, only going through the motions, without any joy or real purpose in our doing. Remember that obedience is of extraordinary importance. We must do what the Lord says. Of this there can be no doubt, nor discussion. But if we are just mindlessly obeying God without thanksgiving filling our heart we are missing everything, and ultimately our own heartless obedience will destroy us.</p> <h2> Finally, sometimes we are not thankful because we are so caught up in our own lives. </h2> <p>What happened to those ungrateful lepers? Probably what would have happened to many of us: we would have been thrilled beyond words to be finally healed and then we would have thought of little else but going home. Those men were thinking of home and family and to see how things had fared in their absence. I ve got my life back now! they were thinking, and so they naturally wanted to get back to that life. Has that ever happened to Christians? Do we think somehow that we own our lives, and that as soon as we bolt out the meeting house door on Sunday we can get back to our lives and how we want to live? Listen to Paul: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20). The fact that Jesus allows us so much freedom to choose so much doesn’t mean that we can choose for self and do what we want. It certainly doesn’t mean that we can somehow abandon basic thankfulness at the core of what and who we are. Indeed, instead of turning away from Jesus to do as we please we need to constantly think of Him. Those thoughts must lead first and foremost to simple, humble gratitude.</p>
Sometimes we talk so much of the nine in Luke 17 that we forget the good things that came to the one who was grateful. He is the only one who received a personal word from Jesus. He got additional time with our Lord. He got to see the smile that comes when someone is genuinely thankful. And he got a personal commendation from the Lord. Do you see? Without gratitude we are the ones who miss so much. Think carefully about what God has done for you. Count your blessings. Be moved to leave the nine and fall at Jesus feet with thanksgiving. Let us find the attitude of gratitude!