IT PAYS TO BE GRATEFUL
"It happened that as He made His way toward Jerusalem, He crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met Him. They...raised their voices, calling out, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.'
"Taking a good look at them He said, 'Go show yourselves to the priests.'
"They went, and while still on their way, they became clean. One of them...turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God...and he was a Samaritan.
"Jesus said, 'Were not ten healed? ...Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?' Then He said to him, 'Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.'" Luke 17:11-19 (The Message).
We live in a world of indescribable beauty and lavish abundance, provided for us by a great big loving God. He does not even discriminate between those who love Him and those who don't. "'...He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked,'" said Jesus - Luke 6:16b (NIV).
And yet we live in a world of abominably ungrateful people. Ingratitude is not only the 'thank you' people never say, but also the careless and thoughtless destruction of our planet that goes on all over the world every day; the exploitation of our resources, the scattering of litter, the pollution of our soil, our water and our skies, and the decimation of our flora and fauna, all in the name of 'progress'.
And what about the gifts, skills and talents people exploit with not a thought for the Giver? Any glossy magazine you can pick up is full of the glaring absence of the gratitude and acknowledgement that God deserves for every good and perfect gift. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever! Amen." Romans 11:36 (NIV).
There is a price to pay for ingratitude. It sets off a chain reaction in people's lives that has an unthinkable end. "For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened...they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles...Therefore God gave them over...to a depraved mind...They have become filled with every kind of wickedness...Although they knew God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things, but also approve of those who practise them." Romans 1:21-32 (NIV).
However, there is a reward for those who acknowledge God as the source of the goodness and favour they experience every day. Nine lepers in our story experienced physical healing but nothing more. They did not find it necessary to express gratitude to God for what He had done for them, but the Samaritan who returned to say thank you and give glory to God, got much more than he anticipated. Not only did he have a healed body but also a renewed life.
Jesus spoke of 'salvation' as the added outcome of his grateful heart. What did that mean? Salvation is much more than the narrow idea of escaping hell and going to heaven when we die. To be 'saved' means to become whole again by being rescued from the futility of a selfish and self-absorbed life into a life which is being refashioned into the image of God who is "gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness." Exodus 34:6 (NIV).
Such a life is useful, fruitful and fulfilled, resembling the Creator who intended for us to be like Him by giving ourselves away in loving service to our fellow men. This cannot happen without the radical heart transformation which happens when we recognise the futility of running our own lives and we turn over the reins to Him.
Gratitude to God and acknowledging that He is God and we are not, is the first step in our journey towards wholeness. God graciously responds by doing the miracle of giving us a new heart and a new disposition of love and faith in Him.
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