The Thankful Heart

By Levi Bond

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 kept their distance but 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, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus said, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? 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 MSG

I am working on a record in my life. I have been a substitute school custodian for over 12 years. I did this job for a year while I was looking for a full-time job. Once I landed one, they kept me on the list for occasional calls. Now that I am working a 4-10 schedule at my full-time job, I am available to work most Fridays at a school. One of the ways I have managed to keep this job, continuing to work as several administrators have turned over, is because of a habit thatI have developed. At the beginning and end of each school year, I visit the maintenance office in person and deliver a thank you note. That thank you note includes a request for more work. I did this again last September as a new school year began. I started thinking as I drove home from this errand, “I am doing a pretty good job of showing my thankfulness for this job.” Then conviction hit me: “How am I doing at being thankful for other blessings in my life?”

In this scripture we have ten lepers who were blessed by being healed. But only one, a lowly Samaritan, turned around, acknowledged and thanked his healer. To put a different twist on this scripture, I thought, “Have I received ten blessings but only been thankful for one of them?” That is an issue that I am still working on.

Looking at what this Samaritan did, his thankfulness went in two directions. One was to Jesus, who was at the time a man, and the other was to God who did the healing. When I consider what the two greatest commandments are in Matthew 22:37-40, being thankful certainly fits in. They are, first “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and second, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

On the love your neighbor side, there are plenty of ways to show thankfulness. For ages we have done it verbally with a “Thank You.” There is also the pat on the back, a written note or card, and nowadays we have email, Facebook, text messages, and the list goes on. Gifts are another way to show our thankfulness. One more way to show thankfulness is by reciprocating assistance to people. Our church in Portland has a history of pitching in to help each other move. I have received help moving twice, and it was invaluable. As a way of showing my thankfulness, I have helped others when they moved.

On the God side of the greatest commandment, there are countless ways to show our gratitude for what He has done for us. When you dedicate your life to Christ, it is your whole life. Prayer, praise, and worship like we do at church are a great start. Our time dedicated to devotions and ministry show our gratitude to God.

Tithes and offerings are another very important opportunity that we have to show our thanks to God. He provided it all — and as a way of showing our gratitude, we have the opportunity to support His church with 1/10th of it plus other offerings as He leads. Tithing is one of my favorite topics to speak about, because I have had the blessing of doing it for several years now, through some ups and downs in my income. I also like to bring it up as a guest speaker at churches because no one can accuse me of being a pastor asking for a raise. Tithing is an important, lifelong discipline that shows gratitude to God.

There is one more aspect of showing gratitude to God in this scripture that should not be overlooked. This Samaritan gave his praise and thanks in public. It says he came back “Praising God in a loud voice.” This guy came back and found Jesus on a sidewalk somewhere, and praised God in front of witnesses for his healing. Why is that important? He was sharing his testimony with others. Out in the world that we live in, our testimonies of deliverance are a lot more effective with hurting people than just handing out tracts and telling people, “You need Jesus.” All of those things are important, but our testimonies are what really brings it home. I have very limited experience with the drug rehab ministries, but I have observed one thing about those ministries. Their most powerful outreach tool is former drug addicts getting on stage or going into the community telling their testimonies to other drug addicts. For a former drug addict to reach out to another and say, “I was there, and the Lord delivered me!” is an incredibly powerful tool.

There are also consequences to not being thankful to God. When I was visiting our sister church in Seattle a few years ago, Pastor Gary Hemminger gave the children’s message. In that message he pulled out a nice looking apple and told the children that he really wanted a donut. Then he told the children and the rest of the church how God was providing for the Israelites with manna, but instead of being thankful for that provision, they started complaining and wanted meat. In anger God gave them all the meat that they could eat, plus a plague.

The tragedy of the story of Israel is, if they had followed God’s plan for a little longer, they would have had plenty of food. God wanted to give them the land of Canaan. They sent 12 spies. The spies came back reporting how they saw bundles of grapes so large that it took two men to carry them. Then they lost faith, because the people were scary giants. Some were descendents of Anak, so maybe genetics had something to do with it — but I believe there was another reason that they were giants. It was because the Canaanites had plenty to eat.

Back in 1999, I got to be a giant when I was stationed in South Korea in the US Air Force. When you compare an American who grew up in a country where food is abundant to anyone who grew up in a more difficult environment, the American looks like a giant. I remember one weekend we went to an amusement park with some Korean friends from our Bible study group. I and another American were in a long line waiting for a ride, and a DJ was entertaining us playing music and chattering in Korean. Later our Korean friend told us that the DJ was making fun of us, because we were towering over everyone else in line. You could also compare North and South Koreans. North Korean people are similar genetically, but they are on average four inches shorter than South Koreans, because they grew up in an environment of severe famines.

My point is, one of the reasons the Canaanites were giants is because they had an abundance of food, and God wanted to bless Israel with that. We will also suffer consequences if we are ungrateful in our relationships to other people and to God.

We need to examine our hearts on this issue. Are you like the leper who turned back to say thank you? Or are you one of the other nine? Are you giving thanks to God and the people around you? Are you thankful for the manna that the Lord has provided for you? Having a thankful heart is not a one-time decision. It is a daily choice that we have to make as we follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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