This time of year often ushers in a season of gratitude and thanksgiving. Most of us want to be characterized as having a grateful heart, but what if there are areas in our lives where we are ungrateful? Could we unintentionally be withholding thanks and not even realize it?
Welcome to Mindful Monday, dear friends. This week here AT THE CROSSROADS we want to focus on developing an attitude of gratitude. And although I like to think of myself as a grateful person, God has been revealing areas in my life where I have displayed ingratitude without even knowing it.
JESUS HEALS THE TEN LEPERS
One of my favorite illustrations in the Bible about being grateful is the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. Below is The Message version:
11-13 It happened that as he made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
14-16 Taking a good look at them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”
They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.
17-19 Jesus said, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?” Then he said to him, “Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.”
In Jesus’ day, lepers were considered untouchable. Ostracized, abandoned, and feared by those without the disease, they had no way to of becoming part of ordinary society unless completely healed. Not only did they suffer excruciating physical pain (think of the loss of extremities due to decay and rot), but the emotional and psychological turmoil wreaked just as much damage. Imagine being isolated and alone without the comfort or help of family and friends all because of a disease you could not control.
Hearing stories of Jesus miraculously healing others, these lepers cry out to Jesus for mercy. He is their only hope. But instead of laying hands on them and curing them immediately, Jesus gives them instructions: “Go show yourself to the priests” (vs.14).
Let’s pause here for a moment. Isn’t Jesus the healer? Why would he tell them to go to the priests? Why did he not heal them immediately with a word from his mouth like he had done for so many others who were ill, sick or disabled?
The significance of the priests in Jesus’ instruction, is that only priests, according to Jewish law, can declare a person healed of leprosy, clean and fit to re-enter society. Jesus doesn’t say that they are healed but certainly implies it. Therefore, they must go to receive a clean bill of health from the official who can grant it.
ONLY ONE COMES BACK
Instead of begging for an instantaneous miracle, they obey Jesus. And presumably, they were going to continue on their way until they found the priests, but something miraculous happens: “They went, and while still on their way, became clean” (vs. 15).
We do not know how they discover that they are indeed healed, but it probably doesn’t take long. Looking at one another as they walk, the lepers begin to notice the bright, new skin breaking through the decaying, rotting flesh. You can almost hear the screams of joy as they examine their arms and legs and discover healthy and whole bodies!
Put yourself in their situation. What do you do then? I think that, upon being healed, I would run as fast I could to show the priests. Knowing that I needed their stamp of approval before I could return home to see my family and friends again, I would be laser-focused on accomplishing this task and getting back to a normal life.
Ungrateful? Somewhat. Unaware? Definitely.
It is so easy to judge the nine ungrateful lepers and esteem the one who returned to give thanks…but no so fast. Were the nine utterly devoid of gratitude? I don’t think so.
Perhaps they just didn’t understand the actual source of their healing.
It is only the one leper – the Samaritan – the stranger (to God and the gospel) who recognized it wasn’t the priests that healed him – it was Christ. He remembered, returned, and responded.
UNGRATEFUL AND UNAWARE
How often do I act just like the nine lepers forgetting to acknowledge the true source of my blessings?
It is not that I am deliberately choosing to be ungrateful. I believe thankfulness is a character trait worth developing. I want to be a person who expresses genuine gratitude, who teaches her children to be thankful (not just polite), and who remembers to take the time to give thanks.
However, my attitude often reflects that of the nine lepers instead of the one.
Were they ungrateful? We don’t know. However, they missed so much by not taking the time return to Jesus and express their thanks. Because while they received a physical healing, Jesus was offering them spiritual wholeness and they were completely unaware.
They were excited.
They were distracted.
They were forgetful.
Just like me. God graciously give gifts daily; rarely do I stop and acknowledge them.
I am too busy.
I am too self-absorbed.
I am too lazy.
So how do we check ourselves so that we do not miss opportunities to show sincere gratitude to the ultimate Giver of every “good and perfect gift”? (James 1:17)
Reread the story of the ten lepers and notice what Jesus says to the one who returns to give thanks. Jesus tells him that his faith has not only healed him but saved him. We need to remind ourselves daily that Jesus is the source of everything. Yes, we should be intentional about thanking those in our lives, but we should never overlook the One who makes us whole lest we forget and become ungrateful for His sacrifice.
We need to share what we are thankful for, express our gratitude intentionally, and journal our gifts daily. It is one thing to talk, read, or think about being thankful…quite another to DO something about it. I believe that all ten lepers were grateful that Jesus healed them of their leprosy, but only one did something about it. When we decide to get intentional, purposeful, and mindful about expressing our thankfulness, our perspectives change. If you do not already do this, start a gratitude journal. Begin or end each day by recording at least three things for which you are grateful. Write it down so that you can remember.
After we remember and record, we need to respond to keep ourselves from becoming ungrateful. Our response show flow from the recognition of what we have been given. Notice how the one leper responded when he returned to Jesus: he shouts his gratitude, glorifies God, kneels at Jesus’ feet, and does not stop thanking Him. Is this an accurate picture of how we respond to God? Do we carry on oblivious of His provision until something terrible happens? Or do we casually forget until we need something? Unless we intentionally respond in gratitude, we can quickly develop ungrateful hearts without even knowing it.
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it away.” ~ William Arthur Ward
I want to challenge myself (and all of you!) to take the GRATITUDE CHALLENGE for the month of November.
Remember what you are thankful for by recording it each day. In addition, write out how you will respond as a result of your gratitude.
Here is an example to get you started:
I want to remember to thank God for His daily faithfulness to me even when I am unfaithful. I want to respond to this by setting aside a specific time each day to pray and thank Him.
Won’t you join me? Let’s start on this Mindful Monday by listing three things in the comment section for which you are grateful.
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