Ten Minus One
9 October 2016
Once upon a time, there was a man who lived with his wife, his two small children and elderly parents in a tiny one room hut. He tried to be patient and gracious, but the noise and crowded conditions wore him down. So in desperation he consulted the village wise man. The wise man said. “Do you have a rooster?” The distressed man answered, “Yes.” The wise man instructed him. “Keep the rooster in the hut with your family and come see me again next week.” The next week, the distressed man returned and told the wise man that the living conditions were much worse; the rooster crowed and made a mess of the hut. Then the wise man asked “Do you have a cow?” The man nodded fearfully. Then he told him, “Take your cow into the hut and come see me in a week.” Over the next couple of weeks the man, on the advice of the wise elder, brought in one goat, two dogs and his brother’s children. Finally the distressed man could take no more; in a fit of anger he kicked out the animals and guests, which left only his wife, his children and his elderly parents. The house suddenly became spacious and quiet. He was now thankful for what he had in the beginning.
When we go through hard times, we should do everything we can to change whatever the situation is. But if it is not possible to change the circumstances, we still can have peace from God with a thankful heart.
My text is Luke 17:11-19. It is the story of how ten lepers were healed, but only one returned to give thanks.
1 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show you to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
Ten lepers stood at a distance and cried for mercy as Jesus was about to enter a village. It is believed that those 10 men had the severest form of leprosy called Hansen’s disease. Because Hansen’s disease was so highly contagious and incurable, these poor lepers were required to stay a safe distance away. When Jesus healed people, he used a combination of means where he would touch the sick, make spit on the ground or say some inspirational words. In this situation, he said-“Go to the priests,” who were like health inspectors. As they went to find these holy men of God, the 10 lepers noticed physical changes.
It was at that point, that one of them returned to give thanks to Jesus. Now if the nine had gone to the priests to receive confirmation of their healing, then come back and thanked Jesus, Luke would have written that down. But it appears they did not.
I suspect that most of the lepers wanted to be with their families, and if time permitted they would thank Jesus later, but later never came. They soon got on with their lives and forgot the one who made it possible. What I respect about this Samaritan was that he did not forget.
While we as believers are grateful for the blessings God has given, sometimes we forget to verbalize that. For a child of God, thankfulness is not confined to the official Thanksgiving holiday. This scripture text shows that giving thanks to the Lord is important any day and at any time.
English writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson who understood human nature said: “If the stars came out once a year, everybody would stay up all night to look at them.”
This quote reminds me of when Janet and I lived in Lakeland Florida in the mid 1980’s. During that time period the space shuttle launches were televised. Once they achieved lift off, we would count 15 seconds and run outside to look up into the sky and watch it go as far as the eye could see. Believe me; it was pretty exciting to see something like that in our backyard. My landlord and landlady lived next to us; when they saw us gaze into the sky, they thought it was hilarious. To them the shuttle launch was ho hum. No big deal. Over the years they had seen the Mercury, Gemini and the Apollo space launches; with the shuttle, there was no more excitement.
It is almost the same thing with the blessings of God. If we are not careful, we could take them for granted. Going a step further, can we honestly give thanks in the midst of pain? There are several scriptures that speak to that question.
- Romans 8:28: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.”
- Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Gratitude is like a vaccine that can prevent certain diseases. It negates the poison of fault finding and complaining. Here are two quotes from English writer William Ward:
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you’?”
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
With the Thanksgiving season just around the corner, here are some things we can do to enrich our lives.
- Live in the present. In weight watchers, which I am a member, they tell us to savor the moment. Taste each bite.
- Immerse yourself with inspirational thoughts, good books and the Bible.
- Be content with what we have and do not focus on what we do not have. I own a 13 foot sunfish. It looks like a giant surfboard with a small compartment and a sail on it. Whenever I am out on the lake and see one of those expensive powerboats, I feel rich. From my vantage point I can enjoy the same scenery, the beauty of the water, and the atmosphere on my simple, yet inexpensive boat.
- The last thing is to help others so you will be in a position to touch lives in a meaningful way.
In closing, I believe thanksgiving is important in the eyes of God. If it were not so, Luke would not have penned these verses about the ten lepers. Theologically it is very simple. 10 were healed. 1 returned to give thanks. Nine did not.