Bible Study in Gratitude
Luke 17: 11-19; 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Ten Healed of Leprosy
As Jesus traveled toward Jerusalem, He taught about faith as a seed that grows when we put in the efforts of cultivation. Even though it begins small, it does not stay small; as it grows, it releases more power for life and living, for both the life of the mundane and the life of the extraordinary. This template is about how faith works, and also how our trust in Christ operates. The things God gives us begin small, and then they grow as do our character, forgiveness, Fruit of the Spirit, and gratitude.
Then, a living demonstration of what Jesus was teaching arrived-ten people with a terrible disease, leprosy, where parts of their body literally would fall off. They came up to Jesus, closer than the law and culture would allow and, in a daring bid, cried out and asked for mercy. They seemed to believe He could help them, or else they just had the habit of asking everyone for help in dramatic fashion. But, the One to whom they came was no ordinary teacher or healer; He was the incarnate God who listens, responds, and gives mercy as He does with all who ask to be people of the faith. Then, Jesus told them to follow the law and go to the priest so they could be examined. In so doing, they showed the authorities that they had been healed, as it was the priests' duty to examine and declare that someone had been healed and was ready to return to society. Sometime later, one of the ten came back to give thanks-one of ten, ten percent-and he fell face down in extreme penance and gratitude of heart. Jesus asked a rhetorical question: where are the other nine? Why did only one, a foreigner, a Samaritan come back to give God glory? This man brought joy to Christ's heart and He blessed him and said your faith has made you well (Lev. 13:45-46; 14:1-32).
We see an almost inconceivable response to an incredible act, a fantastic, unattainable, life-changing healing met with resentment or apathy or busyness-or the worst of all, ingratitude. All these people were outcasts; perhaps they approached Jesus with humility, but most did not return it. The ninety percent, the nine out of ten should have shown gratitude but they did not. Gratefulness drove only one to go back and prostrate himself in deep humility, his heartfelt thankfulness turned into worship and praise and a transformed life. For the other nine, ingratitude seemed to be the domineering attitude that just demeaned the wonder of the act and the One who gave such an extraordinarily undeserved gift. The people who were supposed to be faithful, the Jews who were healed, acted contrary to faith and the man who was not of the faith acted with faith. This strikes a piercing blow to us all. Are we grateful to the One who has given us so much? Are we grateful for what we have or are we filled with an attitude of entitlement or apathy or ingratitude (Num. 5:2-4; 2 Kings 5:13-15; 7:3; Matt. 9:22, 27; 15:22; 17:15; 20:31; Mark 5:34; 10:47-48; Luke 16: 24; 18:38-39)?
Where are the nine?
I have studied and pondered this passage for years. In fact, this was the very first Bible passage that I taught over thirty years ago to a youth group. This has perplexed me; why did they not go back? It was not far or out of their way. They did not just get over a cold; they were healed of a stern, life-ending sickness that cut them off from society, from family, from work, from living, yet 90% made the choice-no, we will not give our gratitude. This was a slap in the face of our most Holy God who gives and condescends to give us the mercy we do not deserve. At the same time, He gives us the faith and tools to make life work. It is our duty to receive them and grow and give them back so we can give more. Gratitude works the same; we are given a gift, that of salvation that we do not deserve. So then, how do we live our life in response? Do we make it our duty to give and be appreciative to the One who has given us so much? Or do we recoil in our condition and fears and remain in our pride so we do nothing of Kingdom value?
Here are some plausible reasons I collected over the years…
1. Perhaps one was scared; he was not sure what happened, but knew of Jesus' popularity and was too bashful to present himself to Him.
2. Perhaps one was offended and saw the journey to the priests and the admission of his disease to be overwhelming and too much to bear. The way of Jesus was too hard to be real.
3. Perhaps one was offended because this was too easy. What about all the gifts to the Temple his family had made, or his fasting and devotion to the rules of the Pharisees? The way of Jesus was too easy to be real.
4. Perhaps another saw this as too little, too late. After all, he prayed fervently about this for years, and his family had rejected him. He was now old and had nowhere to go. His leprosy was his only identity and comfort in life; now he had none.
5. Perhaps another leaper just forgot. He ran back to his family so ecstatically, and in all of the commotion of shocked relatives and following the priestly requirements, he simply forgot.
6. Perhaps one of the lepers was so jaded by years of begging only to be an outcast and receive scraps that his bitterness consumed him, so being thankful was no longer in his mindset or capacity. He felt no one deserved his gratitude, even the One who healed Him.
7. Perhaps one of the lepers was a woman and she rushed back home to her kids like a caged animal released back into the wild. So, she was unable to ever leave them again, even long enough to say thanks to the One who made her reunion possible.
8. Perhaps the eighth one thought that this just happened, that Jesus did not have anything to do with it. He did not believe in miracles anymore, so His healing was just a coincidence.
9. Perhaps the final and ninth leper did not believe he was healed. He looked into a pond and saw his fingers and toes restored, his skin back to its healthy olive color, but he was in shock and did not know what to do. He might have thought this was just a dream, so he did nothing.
These are classic excuses of our fallen sinful nature for why we do not like to give thanks. Perhaps, you see yourself in one or more of these excuses. I know I do sometimes. But, we have to know who our Lord is and what He has done for us, and out of that response, offer Him gratitude that is overflowing from us to all those around us! Our Lord is there giving us His mercy, standing and telling us to arise to our faith (This list is inspired from Rev. Martin Bell and a sermon he did at my church, All Saints Carmel, when I was a kid in the early 70's. I still remember it!).
This is what Gratitude helps us do
Gratitude that is directed to God, as the Samaritan leper showed, is an outpouring of our thankfulness coming from our realization that Christ's blood has redeemed us. We are grateful because we recognize our indebtedness. When we realize who and what He is and what He did for us, we respond and this fuels our enjoyment in Christ. Then, it becomes our attitude for the rest of our lives, even when we do not see it at times. It becomes our prime aspect of worship, expressing our indebtedness to God, and then we can better shine His love to others. When we realize we have benefited because of Christ, our lives can become the display that shows others our support, appreciation, and benevolence. In contrast, when we take for granted our position in Christ, we belittle His work and Holiness, which turns us into ingrates, the opposite of our call; we will then become complainers, exhibiting the same grumbling as the Israelites did in the desert that offended our Holy God so much. Such mindsets only lead us to bitterness and anxiety and a life well wasted. It gives us no change in our situation or a life that really has been transformed (Luke 17:11-19; Rom 12; 1 Cor. 4:7; Phil. 4:6; Col. 1:12; 3; 1 Thess. 5:18).
When we are grateful, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience will flow from us. Then, we can put them together with forgiveness and love, so they operate in the parameters of peace and wisdom-all from our Lord's love and work and our gratitude toward Him for that love. Be thankful you are able to work out your relationship with Christ; do it with gratitude and for the Lord. Do your job as if Christ were beside you, because He is (Phil 2:12-18).
Gratitude will enable us to live out our lives centered upon His glory, so our lives are inspired to personal growth and thus "spray out" Christ-like thanksgiving an essential aspect of good character. We will be able to strive for greater heights, good works, and personal growth, the things that are important. So, our goodness by what He has done for us will become intertwined with distinction for one another. It is not because we earn anything, but because we are filled with gratitude, which translates into compassion and friendship with others.
When we learn and apply the attitude of gratitude, then Christ is glorified; moreover, quality relationships are built: us with God, us with one another, and us with the world as influencers! This happens best when we realize that Christ paid our debt in full! We will become living signposts for our Lord-considerate, appreciative, and never critical to others.
Where is your thanksgiving?
Questions to Ponder:
1. How do you respond when someone is grateful towards you? How do you feel?
2. What do you think happened to the other nine? What is God telling you about being thankful to Him?
3. What does this passage say to you about indebtedness and appeasing God with your appreciation?
4. What does indebtedness mean to you? What does ingratitude mean to you?
5. How does gratitude encourage and strengthen you? How does it help you be gracious to others?
6. What does this passage tell you about gratefulness, humility, heartfelt thankfulness, worship, and praise?
7. How can gratitude help you be a transformed and changed Christian so you can learn and grow? What is in the way of gratitude affecting you?
8. What do you need to do to have a better attitude of gratitude, being thankful to God and others, even when it seems it is not deserved or fair?
9. How are you motivated when you realize that God listens, responds, and gives you the mercy and grace you do not deserve?
10. Is the sin of ingratitude in your life for which confession and repentance is needed?
11. When and how do you think you have brought joy to Christ's heart? How can you be better?
12. How will you apply gratitude to your life? What will you do about it? What can you do to better express your indebtedness to God? How will this help you be a better person of His love to others?
Real, effectual Christianity is always characterized by our gratitude that forms our humbleness and submission to Christ's Lordship because we realize our indebtedness to Him. So, our lives are reflections of our Lord, and become motivated and moved by Him and not anything else. Any squandering of our faith and resources is offensive to our Lord who came as the Ultimate Suffering Servant! Pray that ungratefulness never raises its ugly head in you or your church!
More passage to reflect upon on how gratitude affects all you are and do in life: Psalm 55:22; Matthew 4:18-20; 5:22, 37; 12: 33-37; 15:1-20; Romans 5:3-5; 8:38-39; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Ephesians 4; Colossians 1:21-23; 3:15-17; 4:2-6; 1Timothy 1:10; James 1:3; 3:6; Revelation 21:8
© 2009, R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org/