Attitude of Gratitude
“Where are the nine?...Where are the nine?” This is what Jesus says (v.17) after He heals the ten lepers in today’s Gospel from the Twelfth Sunday of Luke (17:12-19). He says this because only one of the ten returned to Jesus, glorified Him and gave Him thanks (v.15-16). And that one leper was not even a Jew, He was a Samaritan (v.16), a foreigner (v.18). Now some people today might say Jesus should have been nicer and thanked the one leper for returning to Him instead of focusing on the nine who did not. But Jesus did not do this. “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?” (v.17) He says, and further emphasizes the point by adding, “Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (v.18).
The lesson of course is the importance of thanksgiving, being thankful, having an attitude of gratitude. Jesus Himself sets the example when He feeds the 5,000 in the wilderness. 36And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude. (Matthew 15:36; Mark 8:6; John 6:11). This event was a prefiguring of the Eucharistic/Last Supper when Jesus did the same thing, 26And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." 27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. (Matthew 26:26-27; Mark 14:3). The word Eucharist comes from the Greek “eucharistia” which literally means ‘thanksgiving.’ Thus, what’s the most profound way we say ‘thanks’ to God? It is by humbly preparing for, the receiving of, and responding to the reception of the Body and Blood of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, many of us do not prepare properly, do not receive frequently, and do not respond appropriately to the receiving of Holy Communion. “Where are the nine?!”
Jesus is not the first person to give thanks to God. He comes in a long line of faithful figures from the Old Testament who were blessed and healed by God and remembered to give Him thanks. King David, the author of the Psalms, started many of them with an expression of thanksgiving. The Church lifts up the Book of Psalms for us as our official prayerbook. And King David shows us the importance of giving thanks to God before asking anything of Him in prayer. Long before King David, after God led the Israelites out of Egypt, He gave them the Law through Moses. And in that Law were instructions for how to worship God. And part of that worship was sacrifices and some were offerings of thanksgiving to God. God made us, He knows how we work and He knows that by being thankful, we work better. Even modern research studies show that people of faith are more thankful and that those who are thankful are more happy and generous.
However, because we live in a fallen world in which are humanity is corrupted by sin, thanksgiving does not come naturally. It is not automatic. It is, like many good, holy and righteous things—a habit—a way of thinking and behaving that must be cultivated and exercised in order to flourish and grow. Instead of cultivating thanks, we often to the exact opposite by wining and complaining. How many of us even bother to take the time to count our blessings? And if we do not, how will we know how blessed we truly are. And if we don’t think we are blessed then we’ll always walk around with a sense of entitlement, like somebody always owes us something.
In the Anaphora Prayer of the Divine Liturgy leading up to the consecration of the Holy Gifts, the priest prays on behalf of the faithful: For all these things we thank You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit; for all things that we know and do not know, for blessings seen and unseen that have been bestowed upon us. Yet, what do we do? When God showers us with blessings, we seldom look up to Him and say, “Why me, Lord?” But when a stone falls on our life, we always look up and complain, “Why me, Lord?” “Where are the nine?”
We don’t think of it often this way, but ingratitude is sinful. It causes us to miss the mark, to fall away from God, not closer to Him. When we had our thirty-year high school reunion a couple summers ago, we invited all of our former teachers. One of the reasons we did that was because we the students had never bothered to thank those teachers for putting up with us and helping us learn and grow. It took us thirty years to properly say thank you. Having just past through Thanksgiving and Christmas, how many of us have taken the time to write thank you notes for the gifts we received? “Where are the nine?”
Let us close today with some very important and meaningful words from the Apostle Paul about thanksgiving.
15See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21submitting to one another in the fear of God. Ephesians 5:15-21 (NKJV)
4Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (NKJV)
17And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)
16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV)