Luke 17:11-19 reveals the account of Jesus cleansing ten lepers. As Jesus passed through Samaria and Galilee, there He met ten lepers who stood afar off, lifting up their voices and crying to Him for mercy. With compassionate authority He told them to go and show themselves to the priests. The Scripture tells us that as they went, they were cleansed.
Our attention is then drawn to one of these lepers. As he saw that he was healed, he turned back and with a loud voice glorified God. He then fell down on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks.
Jesus responds: Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. Jesus then turns to this Samaritan and says: Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.
While it is sad to say, many Christians today fall into this same pattern. God does mighty works in many lives, but how many return to fall on their faces before Him and give Him thanks? What is it that keeps us from returning to give Him the thanks of which He is so worthy? Indeed, where are the nine?
Most likely some simply went on with the cares of this life. But the Scriptures teach that the cares of this life choke out the Word (Matthew 13:22), that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things which he possesses (Luke 12:15), that our excuses about the cares of this life cause us to miss God’s calling (Luke 14:17-20), and that no man having put His hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).
Where are the nine? Perhaps some went about, not simply busy with the cares of this life, but actually seeking after the things of the world. Scriptures teach that all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. The Scriptures also teach that if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15-16). James strongly rebukes: … whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4).
Where are the nine? Most likely there were those that just lived the flesh-life, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, just as in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:38), or those as in the days of Lot, eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, and building (Luke 17:28). How often we fail to realize that God calls these things idolatry! Hear the words of the Apostle Paul in reference to the Israelites: Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play (1 Corinthians 10:7).
Where are the nine? Unfortunately, there may have been those that set out to live a “religious” life – a life of self-righteousness and pride. These are those who live their lives to be seen by others and to be praised of men. They give that they may be known; they pray to be heard; they fast to be seen (Matthew 6). They have the heart attitude: God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men … (Luke 18:11). How strongly the Lord always rebuked the self-righteous!
Where are the nine? We might expect that some just went home and went to sleep. Even the disciples, on the brink of the most important event in all of history, fell prey to this weakness. With questioning rebuke, Jesus said to Peter: What, could ye not watch with me one hour (Matthew 26:40)? And how often is the Christian exhorted to awaken? Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light (Ephesians 5:14). And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed (Romans 13:11). And finally: Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame (1 Corinthians 15:34).
Where are the nine? Jesus evidently expected that they should all have returned – to glorify God and to give Him thanks. For every blessing that God has bestowed upon our lives, we, too, should be at the feet of Jesus, giving Him thanks.
He is worthy of thanks, and the giving of thanks is pleasing to Him. The Bible calls it a sacrifice that we offer to Him (Hebrews 13:15-16). True thanksgiving comes from the heart of an individual in whom God has worked.
Let’s return to the passage about the leper who went back to give thanks to Jesus. From that passage, we can make some interesting observations about a thankful heart.
A thankful heart will always turn you around. It will turn your focus around – from self or circumstances to God. It will turn your direction around – from your own path to the feet of Jesus. It will, in actuality, turn your life around.
A thankful heart will always bring you back to Jesus. Whatever we face in this life, when we stop, be still, and begin to give thanks, that thanksgiving will bring us right before the very presence of Jesus. The leper that was cleansed did not go anywhere else to give thanks, but he returned to Jesus.
A thankful heart will always bring you to a position of humility. Where did we find our thankful leper? He was on his face, at the feet of Jesus.
A thankful heart will always give glory to God. Our thankful leper turned back and with a loud voice glorified God. A thankful heart never takes credit for itself, nor gives glory to another. It gives glory only to God.
A thankful heart will always allow you to get up and go on in peace. “… in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).”
A thankful heart is always pleasing to God. “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well-pleased (Hebrews 13:15-16).”
Where are the nine? Is the giving of thanks missing from your walk with the Lord? If so, turn back to Jesus, give glory to God, bow at His feet, and give Him thanks – day after day after day after day!
Lord, we ask that you give us thankful hearts. You have wonderfully blessed us with salvation from above, with the privilege of living in Your presence, and with the privilege of serving You. To some of us, Lord, You have given the blessings of husbands, children, families, and friends. Our needs are abundantly met. You have called us into a church body where we can worship You. Oh, help us see each of these things as You see them, and help us recognize the abundant blessings that You truly do give.
May we truly give thanks unto Your name.
The above post was first printed in Dawning Light © 2003.