I think Jesus could have used a public relations director to aggrandize some of His miracles. For example, in Luke 17, Jesus heals ten lepers at the same time in a seemingly routine, matter-of-fact way. The Bible recorded that Jesus was walking between the Samaria and Galilee border when the decuple shouted at Jesus: “Have mercy on us”. Without even touching them, He simply commanded them to visit the priest. They leave, and along the way their disease is cured.
Two big thumbs down for lack of sensationalism.
If Hollywood had been shooting this movie, Jesus would have been directed to probably add a slow, exaggerated, circular hand-motion imitating a magic wand. Or, they would have coached Him to point His finger and yell, “SHAZAM!”
Unfortunately for the cinema, however, there were no theatrics and no “ta-das” performed by Jesus. By omission, the Scripture reveals that the real surprise of the story wasn’t the enormity of the miracle, but the lack of thankfulness from the other nine, former lepers. Only one of them, a Samaritan, made a U-turn and thanked Him.
Jesus was surprised by the group’s lack of gratitude and asked the Samaritan, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
The Bible doesn’t record the reason why the rest didn’t return. But we do know their physical healing was only half of what Jesus had slated for them. To the lone Samaritan He responded, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” The indication here is that this person’s spiritual life had also been healed.
This second miracle was, by far, the most significant.
The Source of Thankfulness
If we follow the biblical God, we know the foundation of gratitude is the fact that we have received an invaluable gift: His Son. Jesus came to resolve the broken relationship between God and human beings. We were never owed salvation through Jesus nor could it ever be merited. The Father sent His Son because of His love for us.
Like embers that turn into a wildfire, this thankfulness burns its way through all aspects of the Christian life. It permeates every aspect of believing, thinking, and doing good works.
The Greater the Gratitude, the Greater the Blessing
Gratitude is reciprocal in nature because the more we’re thankful, the more we are able to receive. One reason for this is because appreciation removes the scales over eyes so we can see clearly our numerous, already existing gifts. It also opens our hearts to receive more of God’s activity in our lives. This is because, as Dallas Willard states, “gratitude begets humility.” Since God “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6), we get more grace through thankfulness.
It’s a “win-win-win.”
Thankfulness flows easily when we just landed our dream job or just met our future spouse. And often heavenly appreciation ensues when we only receive a warning (instead of a ticket) for speeding in our car. But what about the times when we don’t get our way? Or, when tragedy strikes? Can we still be thankful then?
Indeed, life is not always a buffet of delicious circumstances where we get to pick and choose which items we put on our plate. Sometimes we get served a dish of lemons.
Gratitude doesn’t mean turning our lemons into lemonade. Certainly painful events can be serendipitous, but I can hardly imagine Jewish people building lemonade stands in Nazi concentration camps or parents serving lemonade at their child’s funeral.
A theology of gratitude like this is at best shortsighted, if not downright egregious. Can you imagine a passerby saying to Jesus on Calvary “turn that frown upside down”?
Ingesting life’s difficulties and tragic events can be overwhelming. Having a heart of gratitude, therefore, is not about looking at the bright side of things. It’s not even acknowledging that things could be worse. Our thankfulness is never to be based on a set of circumstances.
It’s based on a Person.
Two thousand years ago Jesus came to earth with an answer to our pain and suffering: Himself, in human form. He came not only to suffer for us, but to also to suffer with us. He understands our pain. Our gratitude rests soundly in the assuredness that Jesus will also redeem all things for His glory in this life or the next.
Even during trials, Jesus will ultimately supersede all of our problems. That is why it’s paramount to remember that God never asks us to show gratitude for circumstances, but in them.
But if we insist on shaking our fists at Him or forget to appreciate what we have been given, God will never take away His gifts. If I were in Jesus’ shoes, on the other hand, I’d probably replace the nine leper’s healings with nine nasty curses. Or, at bare minimum, I’d unheal them all.
That’ll show ‘em.
But God will never force us to thank Him. It was gratitude, not coercion that led one Samaritan to unwrap the gift of eternity with God. Even in life’s muck and mire, gratefulness guides us to dig up hidden gems. Then, every day can be a treasure hunt. We begin to find each small thing like waking up, dinner with a friend, or sleeping in a comfortable bed, as an undeserved gift.
The power of saying “thank you,” therefore, is that it continually aligns us to the Source of all past, present, and future blessings. Developing a habit of uttering these two words will reveal even more of them. My guess is there are even more hidden presents under your tree just waiting to be found.