I volunteer on a regular basis at an elementary and high school serving breakfast to students. It is a joyful time of serving hungry folks with forms of nourishment like pancakes, sausages or even cereal. Students line up and wait their turn to be blessed with a simple meal to start off another engaging day of school. Often they respond with a “thanks” or even a hearty “thank you,” but sometimes they grab their goods and head off to consume without a word. At times I am tempted to become the “thank you” police, and to encourage an obligatory response. But then the reality of what it means to truly be thankful sinks in and honestly, I am not always there myself. I take so many things for granted and while it is great to have manners, isn’t it hard to be a truly thankful person?
In the Bible, Jesus performed miracles to show people his divine power and love. In one account found in Luke 17:11-19, Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village he met ten men who were cast out of society because they were plagued with a disease called leprosy. While the physical effects took a toll on their bodies, they also experienced the pain of being disconnected from their homes, families and all they held dear. From a distance these men cried out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (v.13).
Talk about a cry for help. They needed something and they were lining up in desperation for a hand out. Think about how many times they searched for something or someone to cure them, but this Jesus had a response. He just didn’t say, “Be healed!”, but told them to go show themselves to the priest. The priest was one who could declare a person was well enough to return home and back to a normal way of life. In verse 14 it says, “…as they went, they were cleansed.” I bet these men never appreciated life so much as being healed on their journey to see the priest. They likely ran immediately home to their families and loved ones.
You would think this is the happy ending of a nice story highlighting restoration. But the twist in the story comes when we hear about the actions of one of the “lucky” ones. Before resuming life, he seeks out Jesus and loudly praises God as he threw himself at the feet of Jesus (v.15-16). Jesus is amazed that only one of the ten returned to give thanks when he asks, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” (v.17). Then Jesus said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (v. 19).
This guy got it! He understood and modeled being thankful because he was full of thanks. I believe he just did not get a better understanding of thanks and healing, but he also received a greater insight in what it meant to be in relationship with God. What a gift he received by returning as he overflowed with thanks.
From this text I see an amazing example of what it means to be thankful. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it gives us a picture of taking inventory of some of the blessing we have received. Take some time alone or with family and friends and recount these things and thank God for ways He has shown up in our lives. We can even discover how returning with thanks on a regular basis can be a blessing for us and others. Let’s not miss an opportunity to be “Thank Full” instead of all the other things that will make us full this season.
Frank Alioto is the pastor of The River Covenant Church: “An Alaskan church for people who would rather go to the River.” We gather on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. at K-Beach Elementary in Soldotna. Call 252-2828 or visit www.therivercovenantchurch.org.