"Where Are the Other Nine?"
On a recent mission trip to Kenya, I marveled as little children danced excitedly because I had given them some free pencils; on another trip teenage girls screamed with joy because of a financial gift that allowed them to stay in school and receive an education; and in yet another situation old ladies broke into a traditional dance because they had received gifts of sugar and flour. All these people who live with so little were quick to express deep and unbridled gratitude for the gifts they received.
Gratitude is such a beautiful and rich emotion and yet it doesn’t come easily to us. We are more likely to complain about what we don’t have, and what’s not working. But think about all the good and perfect gifts that God has already given to us. Think about life, health, family, friends, all the basic necessities we need to survive, the abundance of the earth and the priceless relationship we have with our Savior Jesus Christ through the forgiveness of our sins, as well as the freedom to worship our God. The list of blessings for which we should give thanks is endless. Certainly, we may experience momentary hardships from time to time, and we may even experience devastating and prolonged challenges, but overall, when we begin to count our blessings in him and through him, we will discover that they far surpass the negative situations we encounter in life.
In the story about the healing of the ten lepers, Luke reports that only one of them returned to give thanks to Jesus. When this happened, Jesus expressed amazement that only one had returned to thank him. “Were not all ten cleansed?” he asked. “Where are the other nine?” Jesus’ question is rhetorical, and emphasizes the fact that many of us often forget to say, “thank you” for the God-given gifts we receive. Jesus also noted that the only one who returned to give thanks was a Samaritan, a race despised by the Jewish people. Isn’t it interesting, that often it is those who have the least in life that seem the most grateful? Jesus’ response to the one who came back clearly shows that he wants and waits for us to express gratitude. He waits expectantly for us to return to him with a spirit of gratitude and when we forget to do so, he wonders where we are spiritually even as he wondered about the other nine lepers.
For believers, cultivating thankfulness is a direct command from God (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Psalm 105:1; Psalm 118: 1-18; Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3: 15-17; Philippians 4:6). A spirit of gratitude honors God and strengthens our faith. It also strengthens our relationship with other people. So today ask yourself, how often do I express gratitude to God and to other people? Is God wondering where you are? Do your acquaintances know how grateful you are for them? Meister Eckert, a German theologian once said, “If the only prayer you said was, “Thank you” that would be enough.”
You may be facing tall mountains and deep valleys today, be thankful anyway, Jesus is right there with you.
Generous Father, you have promised to withhold no good thing from those who trust in you. Thank you for your generosity poured out upon me and for all the gifts you have given to me, especially for the gifts of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ. Thank you for sustaining me through the power of your Spirit and protecting me through the years. Thank you for meeting all my needs and for guiding my steps through your holy word. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Help me to wake up each day, grateful for what you mean to me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.