Too often, those who are the most blessed are the least grateful. This is an especially sad critique for those who of us who are followers of Jesus Christ because we know from the Scriptures, that every good and perfect gift that comes our way, ultimately comes from God. Things haven’t changed much in this regard in the last 2,000 years. Today, we are going to look at an instance in Jesus’ ministry that revealed how hard it is to find a person with a grateful heart.
In Luke 17, we read that as Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, he entered a village and encountered ten leprous men who pleaded for Jesus to help them (vv. 11-13). To understand the desperate plight of these men, you need to know something about leprosy. In the first century, there was no cure for this disease. Because leprosy was highly infectious, Jewish law required that lepers be isolated from the rest of society (Lev. 13:45–46). It is obvious that Jesus’ reputation as a miracle worker had given them hope that maybe, just maybe, he could do for them what he had done for others. Could he help them? Or would he send them away like the other Jewish rabbis had done? I suspect that in addition to being isolated from their families, lepers felt isolated from and judged by God as well.
We read in verse 14, “When He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they were going, they were cleansed.” According to Old Testament law, for a leper to be readmitted to Jewish society, he had to be pronounced “clean,” or cured, by a Jewish Priest. Jesus asked these ten lepers to go and get a “certificate of healing” from a Priest. But please note, he gave them this directive before they were actually healed! In other words, Jesus asked them to exercise faith. They had to begin their journey to the Priest as lepers, believing that somewhere along the way, they would be healed. They exercised faith, and were healed as a result.
Note carefully their response to this miracle: “Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan” (vv. 15-16). As a Samaritan, this man was doubly ostracized in Palestine, because Jews hated Samaritans, and vice-versa. Jews considered Samaritans to be racially and spiritually impure. That it was a Samaritan and not a Jew who returned to give thanks provides an unexpected and shocking twist to the story. “Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has made you well’” (vv. 17-19). I would like to make three observations from this passage concerning human nature and our response to God’s blessings.
 We are often quick to pray, but slow to give thanks. Despite our privileged position, rather than being truly grateful for the blessings we have, we too often focus on the things we want and don’t have. We grumble and are envious of our neighbor.
 Those who have been blessed the most often tend to be the least grateful. In our text, we saw that ten men were cleansed, but only one returned to give thanks: the socially despised and lowly Samaritan. Presumably, the other nine were Jews, God’s chosen people. More than anyone, else they had been the recipients of God’s blessings. Yet they failed to give thanks to God for a miraculous healing. Why is that? There are many possible reasons. Let me share a couple. (a) Personal prosperity can blind us to our true neediness and dependence upon God. When our needs are met and many of our wants satisfied, we don’t sense our need for God. When is the last time you asked God for your daily bread? When our cup is full—we don’t sense our need for God. (b) Personal prosperity can lead to an entitlement mentality. God has blessed us, and we expect him to keep blessing us. So long as God blesses, we worship and serve him. But let the blessings cease, and watch what happens! Let adversity come our way and see how faithful we remain.
 Gratitude is the natural and expected response of one who has experienced God’s blessings. Jesus expected all ten to return and give praise to God, because all ten were beneficiaries of his grace. Jesus is saying, “Where is their gratitude? Why didn’t they return to thank God?” This is really a stinging rebuke to all of us who daily experience God’s blessings, yet only rarely acknowledge the hand from whom those blessings come.
How would you describe your GQ (you “Gratitude Quotient”) right now? Would those who know you best say that your daily demeanor is characterized more by griping or gratitude? Does your focus tend to be more on what you have or on what you want and don’t have? Do you see the good things in your life as blessings or as entitlements? Let’s meditate on these questions during the upcoming week.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Make it a habit to praise and thank God as consistently as you petition him.
- Make a “Robinson Crusoe List”, contrasting the “good” and the “evil” of your life circumstances. It will help you put your troubles in perspective.
- Make a list of twenty-five ways that God has blessed you. Look at that list every day this week and thank God for his provision.
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)