Focus Scripture: Luke 17
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Gratitude isn't just an emotion. It's relational. It's not enough to feel grateful. You have to express your gratitude. Gratitude and ingratitude are relationally determinative.
In Luke 17 we find ten lepers asking Jesus to have pity on them, meaning they believed or heard that Jesus was a healer. Jesus responds t them by saying, ”Go show yourself to the priests!”
God had given the Israelites very specific instructions on how to deal with leprosy and other skin infections (Leviticus 13). Anyone suspected of having this disease had to go to a priest for examination (Leviticus 13:2-3). If found to be infected, “the leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:45-46). The leper then was considered utterly unclean—physically and spiritually.
Incurable by man, many believed God inflicted the curse of leprosy upon people for the sins they committed. In fact, those with leprosy were so despised and loathed that they were not allowed to live in any community with their own people (Numbers 5:2). Among the sixty-one defilements of ancient Jewish laws, leprosy was second only to a dead body in seriousness. A leper wasn’t allowed to come within six feet of any other human, including his own family. The disease was considered so revolting that the leper wasn’t permitted to come within 150 feet of anyone when the wind was blowing. Lepers lived in a community with other lepers until they either got better or died. This was the only way the people knew to contain the spread of the contagious forms of leprosy.
Jesus came to set people free. Jesus utterly rejected the idea that the Father caused the diseases as punishment for sin. This was a Jewish tradition. This passage is filled with the character of God revealed through Jesus. God accepts everyone no matter socio economic status… even Samaritans. In the eyes of a Jew you couldn’t get any worse than a first century Samaritan with leprosy. The love of God transcends every race, religion, gender, socio-economic status, nationality and age.
Only one of the ten went back to thank the one who enabled him to move forward with his life. Jesus seemed to be surprised that the other nine didn’t come to thank him.
I am sure that if you asked the other nine if they felt grateful for what Jesus did, they would say absolutely yes. But even though they felt it, they didn’t express it back to the one who enabled them to move forward in life.
Most of us were taught as children to say thank you when someone gave us something or did something good for us. I can remember my mom always prompting me to say thank you with the notorious question: Now, what do you say?
Unexpressed gratitude communicates ingratitude. – People tend to become offended when our gratitude is not expressed.
Unexpressed gratitude is experienced as rejection. – The thought begins to arise; “Well maybe they don’t want my help.”
Overtime, unexpressed gratitude has the same effect as rejection. – Eventually the recipient of ingratitude will conclude that the initiator doesn’t need them or want them.
Unexpressed gratitude may indicate an inflated view of self. – In our culture a sense of entitlement has risen to an unbelievably high standard. Some people think they deserve the good gifts and see no need to express any gratitude. In some cases they don’t even feel gratitude. Unexpressed gratitude is a debt yet to be paid. We can all look back or even around us now and see people who we might owe a debt of gratitude. It’s not enough to feel gratitude, we must also express it.
Not only are we to express our gratitude to those who deserve it, we have to learn to express our gratitude to God for all he has done for us.
In our western culture, it is easy to say things like: Well God hasn’t done anything good for me lately. In our consumer driven minds, we look only to material things or physical things to be grateful for. But we should always be thankful to God for the sacrifice of His son so that we would live free of the consequences of sin… which is death.
- Have you ever been the recipient of ingratitude?
- Have you ever witnessed a fractured relationship because of ingratitude?
- Is there someone who you owe a debt of expressed gratitude?
- How can you take steps to ensure your debt is paid?