A third lesson I think we can learn from the lepers whom Jesus healed is that faith which does not issue in thanksgiving is incomplete. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?"
The other nine lepers had some faith. Otherwise, they would not have asked Jesus to heal them. Without faith they probably would not have called Jesus "Master". Furthermore, the other nine lepers obeyed Jesus' command to go to the priest, even though they were not healed yet. The priest was the one in the ancient Jewish community who could declare a former leper "clean" thus allowing him or her to return to society. The ten lepers all left on their journey to the priest, trusting that Jesus would heal them somehow, even though they did not see the healing until halfway through their journey. (There is probably another lesson we can take to heart from that.)
But why didn't all ten lepers come back and thank Jesus? There are several possible reasons. Perhaps nine of the lepers were prideful. Perhaps they were ashamed to acknowledge their dependence on Jesus.
Abraham Lincoln had a very interesting observation in his Declaration of Thanksgiving on October 3, 1863. Lincoln wrote,
But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.I wonder: have we become too self-sufficient to say thanks to God for all he has done for us?
Perhaps another reason why nine of the lepers did not come back to say thanks is because they were not appreciative by nature. Warren Wiersbe once wrote, "Some people are appreciative by nature, but some are not; and it is these latter people who especially need God's power to express thanksgiving."
Leslie Flynn tells the story of a Vermont farmer who was sitting on his porch with his wife. He was beginning to realize how much she meant to him. It was about time--for they had lived together forty-two years, and she had been such a help, a very willing worker on the farm. One day as they sat together, the farmer said, "Wife, you've been such a wonderful woman that there are times I can hardly keep from telling you."
Perhaps some of us need to increase our thanksgiving quotient.
Maybe another reason why nine of the lepers did not come back to thank Jesus is because they were too busy. Once they realized they were healed they had to go to the priest who would confirm the healing. Then they had to get settled back into society. They had to find jobs, and reconnect with their families. There was so much to do.
I imagine we all have known people who come to God in a crisis, but then forget about God when the crisis is past. When we are sick we may pray to God for healing, but when we are well again, we forget to thank him. Everyday life takes over and involves us in its busyness.
Or perhaps nine of the lepers focused too much on the negative and that's why they didn't come back to thank Jesus. Maybe they thought, "Now we are healed, but we're going to have to go out and find jobs. This is too much change to handle all at one time!" We have probably all known people who dwell so much on the negative that they find thanksgiving a difficult muscle to exercise.
John Yates tells the story of a man writing at a post office desk. He was approached by an older man with a postcard in hand. The old man said, "Sir, could you please address this postcard for me?" The man gladly did so, and he agreed to write a short message on the postcard, and he even signed it for the man.
Finally, the man doing the writing said to the older man, "Now, is there anything else I can do for you?"
The old fellow thought about it for a minute, and then he said, "Yes, at the end of the postcard please write, 'P.S. Please excuse the sloppy handwriting.'"
Some of us have a hard time accentuating the positive. I know that is true of me sometimes. Consequently, we miss many opportunities to thank Jesus for what he has done for us.
But today is a new day. God's mercies are new every morning. And every new day, every moment, is another opportunity to thank Jesus.
Tomorrow we will look at a fourth lesson we can learn from the lepers....