Luke tells of a time when Jesus heals ten people of their leprosy. This was an astonishing feat and in first-century Jewish culture, this would have been a clear indication that Jesus was the promised Messiah. But after the healing, only one person comes back to express his gratitude to Jesus.
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.Luke 17:16-16
One person comes to express his gratitude to Jesus — and Luke adds an interesting little detail: he was a Samaritan! To the Jewish way of thinking, this meant he was not to be considered a true son of Abraham but something of an outsider. And yet, he’s the one who returns to give thanks.
Greek scholars note that the language Luke uses here is only used in reference to God the Father throughout the rest of the NT. So Luke’s point is clear: this healed man recognizes Jesus in the same light, as the source of his blessing. Luke is winking at us and says, “By thanking Jesus, this outsider is recognizing Him as God-in-the-flesh.” The Samaritan not only has better manners than the rest but also better theology. He’s learned the most important lesson. He cannot help but thank Jesus for this great blessing!
The practice of gratitude implies that we have someone to thank — that we know the source of our blessing. Secular psychology often extols a generic kind of thankfulness which has become quite commonplace in our culture today — this notion of being grateful “to the universe” for all that you have, which is really a bunch of hippie pagan nonsense. But the biblical story is such a gift to us because it lets us know who to thank for our blessings.
I read about one individual who has a unique answer to the question, “How are you?” Whereas most people reply with a reflexive, “I’m fine. How are you?” her response is both unexpected and intentional. When asked, she replies, “I am grateful.” She chooses those words to make a point: that gratitude is not simply a response to our good fortune but, more importantly, it is a choice we make. In all circumstances, we can choose to give thanks.
What if we started answering the same way every time someone asked, “How are you?” What if we responded by saying, “I am grateful,” — do you think this simple act could help alleviate our anxiety? Could that be a simple way to be faithful to the Lord’s command to give thanks in all circumstances?
More than anything, I hope 2020 has reminded us to be thankful for the enduring promises of God. So much has changed this year, but here’s what hasn’t changed:
- God’s love hasn’t changed
- God’s faithfulness hasn’t changed
- And God’s promises have not changed — what Simon Peter calls the precious and magnificent promises of God.
When you look at it that way, we have plenty of reasons to give thanks.