11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Stopping to give thanks for our blessings is a simple thing to do, but at the same time is such an important lesson. In the story above, only one out of ten did so. Presumably the other nine did go on to show themselves to the priests, thereby obeying the command of Jesus and fulfilling the letter of the law. That’s not bad, but returning first while praising God with a loud voice was even better. Jesus remarks how odd it is that they didn’t all return together.
But isn’t that just like us sometimes? We perform our duties, we get the job done, but we fail to acknowledge the wonderful hand of God in the process. God gives, we receive and then just go about our business. Paul reminds us of the importance of thanking God in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, saying
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
How often have we wondered about God’s will for us? There it is.
Now in my estimation, that verse from 1 Thessalonians is hard enough, though I admit that doing God’s will is essential and truly works for our eternal benefit. But this one, Ephesians 5:20, is harder yet.
Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s one thing to give thanks in all circumstances, quite another to give thanks for the circumstances themselves. And yet “giving thanks always for all things” sure seems to include not only difficult circumstances, but pretty much anything we can think of, good or bad. The lesson here is that if God allows something into our lives, it is somehow intended for our good, though that good may not be easy to see at the time. I think of the book of Job or any number of tragic stories that we are personally familiar with.
These lessons are the advanced class. If you are like me, we need to go back to the story of the lepers and remember to thank God for our blessings, That should be easy and yet I too often fail even there. Let’s begin with the basics.