What does it mean to give thanks? What does it mean to be filled with gratitude? We may be tempted to answer this question simply by describing thankful or grateful actions like saying thank you, or smiling warmly, or doing a kind action, or giving a gift. Yes, these actions do reflect thanks-giving, but they merely scratch the surface of true gratitude. Let’s dig a little deeper:
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19)
Gratitude, at its deepest level, is turning ourselves towards the God who gives us life and recognizing both the greatness of God and the greatness of the gift of life. In this story from Luke’s Gospel Jesus heals ten but only a single leper was grateful. Nine were healed and went out, presumably, to seize the day and leverage God’s blessing to their advantage for the rest of their lives. Nine took their gift of life for granted. One turned back, praised God, and fell at the feet of Jesus. Nine were healed… but only one was made well. He was made well by his faith, Jesus says. His faith, in turn, came in the recognition of God’s gift of life and God’s power to give it.
This turning ourselves towards God in praise and thanksgiving for the gift of life is not something we do only once, or only when God has healed us of something terrible. Falling at the feet of Jesus in gratitude is something we should do daily… maybe even hourly… in recognition of the life we have been given and the power and love of the one who has given it.
May your thanks-giving run deep this week and all the days of your life