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What can one healed leper teach us about Thanksgiving?

thankful thanksgiving thank
Unsplash/ Ann

All the turkey-time trappings of the Thanksgiving holiday tend to numb our sincere reflection. But this is a perfect time to consider whether we are thanks-giving or ungrateful people. Being grateful isn’t natural. Gratitude, for all its merit, is not something easily embraced or practiced, especially as we all face life’s challenges.

It is easier to complain than to be grateful. One of the biggest problems we all have is pride. We say to ourselves, “I deserve better,” “This is wrong,” “You’ve got to be kidding me,” “Not me, I’m not due this.”

How often do you feel grateful? But more importantly, how often do you pause to sincerely express it? If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is not enough — not even close.

The parable in Luke 17:11-17 speaks of 10 men with leprosy. A leper’s life was unbearable, and the physical ramifications were horrendous. Thought to be highly infectious at the time, this disease attacks the body with grotesque damage. Sores, missing fingers, missing toes, and damaged limbs were commonplace. They emanated a smell of rotting and decaying flesh, which was overwhelmingly repulsive. They were the walking dead, and due to these devastating infirmities and perceptions, they were despised as social outcasts. Whenever they encountered anyone, they were required to yell, “unclean, unclean.”

This account in Luke tells us that 10 men approached Jesus from afar and shouted to him, requesting that he take pity on them. He told them to show themselves to the priests:

“And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.” Then Jesus asked penetrating and heart-revealing questions: “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except for this foreigner?”

Only one of the 10 lepers was truly thankful.

Think about it. All 10 lepers were healed, but only one returned to glorify God and fell down to worship Him in gratitude. Let’s ask ourselves: are we like the self-absorbed nine who did not return, but whose lives were literally released from a death sentence? Or are we like the one who glorifies God and falls down before Him for what He has done? If we search our heart and confront the stark reality, we are more like the other nine than the one who returned.

This parable teaches us that God desires us to express our thankfulness to Him for who He is and all He does in our lives. When life tells you to be bitter, envious, and depressed, choose to be thankful. Choose to be the Samaritan who returned and gave thanks. No matter the situation in which you find yourself right now, there are always many things for which to be thankful!

Think of all the things that the Lord has done for you. Hasn’t He been gracious to us in hundreds, no actually, thousands of ways? We need to quickly recognize God’s abounding love, care, provision, protection, and kind providences.

Geoff Thomas, in his message The Thankful Leper, states:

“You have received every lovely thing God has given you-every mouthful of food you take, every breath you inhale, every note of music you hear, every smile on the face of a friend, a child, a spouse, all the incredible gifts of intelligence, long life, health, loving parents, and of course many material blessings. Are you thanking Him? Or are you just like the nine ungrateful lepers?”

Jesus is the son of God, God incarnate, and the Savior who is worthy of worship and our constant gratitude.

God deserves our gratefulness; don’t take Him for granted.

This Thanksgiving, and all year round, we should have a heart filled to overflowing with thankfulness to God.

Psalm 136:1 “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever”

Jim Thrasher is the Senior Advisor to the Vice President for Student Recruitment and the coordinator of the Institute for Faith & Freedom's working group on calling.

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