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Harvest -Time of Thanksgiving

 

You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy. (Psa 65:9-13)

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Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. (Act 14:17)

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Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. (Eccl 9:7)

 

 
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In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1Th 5:18)

Where are the nine?

Luke 17:12-19 tells the story of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus. Only one leper returned and thanked Jesus after he was healed and this man was a Samaritan. It's interesting to note that Jesus' first words weren't to praise the Samaritan's faith but rather, Jesus asked the question, "Where are the nine?" While the Lord did praise the man's faith, the most significant lesson Jesus wanted to teach was gratitude and He did so by pointed out the nine leper's ingratitude.

Focusing on the nine gives us a better understanding of the ugliness of ingratitude, rather than just the beauty of the Samaritan's praise and thankfulness. Without the question, "Where are the nine?," it would be a nice, feel-good story but we wouldn't get the full force of the lesson Jesus wanted to give - the lesson of how important gratitude is. With a couple of questions, Jesus pulls the rest of us into the story by our natural response of mentally answering the questions: (1) "Where are the nine?" Answer: They went their own way happy with renewed health, but never taking thought or time to thank the giver of such a great gift. (2) "Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" Answer: No, there wasn't.

By asking these questions, Jesus allows us, the reader, to answer and, by answering, it produces two responses in us:

(1) An examination of self. As soon as we answer, "The nine continued with their lives, ungrateful," it causes us to feel ashamed of the many times we have done the same. How many daily blessings do we accept from God without so much of a thought to the Giver, much less giving thanks for the specific blessings. We have come to the conclusion that a "Thank you for the many blessings," said in our prayers takes care of each and every gift from God and that is sufficient.

(2) Our own personal response to Jesus' questions causes us to think more about what just happened and to focus more on Jesus' question. He added a second question after asking where the nine were. He asked "Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God?" A thankful heart is good, but recognizing who gave the gift is even better. The Samaritan recognized the power and goodness of God and gave praise and thanksgiving to the Provider of all good things.

Gratitude not only appreciates the gift, but also the giver. God's own people often take for granted the gifts from their God and sometimes it takes a "foreigner" to wake them up from their drowsy gluttony of ingratitude. May we, as children of God, never leave with the nine but return time and time again and give glory and thanksgiving to the Giver. 

The Blessing of the One

All ten lepers walked away with good health, but the one, the Samaritan, who had a grateful heart and returned to thanked Jesus, came away with much more than the nine did. By looking at the Giver and not just the gift, he praised God and gave Him the glory. Jesus understood how spiritually helpful gratitude is and the Holy Spirit makes this the theme of this short story. Seeing the thankfulness of the Samaritan, we can take a glimpse into what may have been the rest of the story of this man.

(1) A grateful heart gives joy in our lives. We learn to appreciate our blessings, therefore, we are more ready to see blessings in our lives and not take them for granted. I would think the Samaritan didn't take his body for granted after his healing, but daily thanked God for how good he felt. I'm sure he complained less about his normal aches and pains.

(2) A grateful heart gives contentment. Leprosy separates people from their family and friends. It takes away love, friendship, and the ability to make a living. When all those blessings returned to the Samaritan, the abundance of material things probably didn't matter to him. He now has what he longed for - companionship and love.

(3) A grateful heart creates kindness in us. Instead of comparing ourselves with others and envying what they have and we don't, gratitude gives us contentment, therefore we will rejoice in the good others experience. Gratitude will seek to help those who have less and to be more empathetic.  I would imagine the Samaritan was more aware of the poor, the needy, and the lonely than he ever was before he became ill.

(4) A grateful heart desires to praise God and give God credit for the many many blessings of life. It prompts us to have a desire to want others to know the Lord and receive His blessings. The Samaritan probably taught many others about Jesus when he went back to his home town.

(5) A grateful heart is a heart that grows in faith. It humbles us to recognize our loving and powerful God. It gives credit to the One who is all wise and knows just what our needs are so that we bow to Him in humble obedience. I hope and would like to believe that the Samaritan's heart never wavered and that his daily gratitude strengthened him as he persevered until the end.

With all this said about the one leper who returned, it makes me believe the nine may not have had it so good, neither did those they came in contact with. Gratitude becomes a gift within itself - it gives to the one who possesses it and it blesses those who come in contact with it.

 
Is it possible the nine were so happy to be healthy they hurried home to enjoy family and friends? Did they get busy getting a job? Did they try and make up for lost time? Did they do all the normal things you and I would do? Did they get so caught up in their own lives they were too busy to be grateful? 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
"Gratitude is not a spiritual or moral dessert which we may take or push away according to the whims of the moment, and in either case without material consequences. Gratitude is the very bread and meat of spiritual and moral health, individually and collectively. What was the seed of disintegration that corrupted the heart of the ancient world beyond the point of divine remedy...? What was it but ingratitude?" - Noel Smith    

 

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November 2017