An incident in the life of Jesus, recorded in Luke 17:11-19, is at once both joyful and sad. As he traveled toward Jerusalem, he passed through some of the cities and villages of Samaria and Galilee to the north.
As he entered one village, a group of lepers, 10 in all, saw Jesus and called out for him to heal them. They did not come near him, for they were inflicted with a dreadful disease, evidently in its advanced stages. In compassion, the Lord told them to go and show themselves to the priests, in keeping with the Law of Moses.
As they were going, Scripture says that they were cleansed. What a joyous occasion for these men. Moments before they had been among the outcasts of society, not even able to approach normal people, but forced to live lives of misery and isolation. Consequently, when they found themselves miraculously cleansed by Jesus, it was indeed a time for rejoicing.
But, as it turned out, it was also a time for sadness and reflection, for only one of them felt a compulsion to turn back and give thanks to the Christ for their cleansing. One out of 10! How shocking, that the other nine could be so ungrateful. Jesus was amazed, and asked, “Were not 10 cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” The one who found it in his heart to show his gratitude was a Samaritan. No, the other nine men were guilty of the sin of ingratitude.
In spite of God’s goodness to them, the people of Israel were guilty of the sin of ingratitude, demonstrating it by continually returning to sin. Even though God had patience with them through the years, they were guilty. Saul, the first king of Israel, was ungrateful to God in his constant willfulness. Cain was ungrateful when he killed his brother. Even the prophet Jonah was guilty of ingratitude when he refused to preach to the pagan city of Nineveh. Many more examples are available, and we may shake our heads in amazement. But let’s not be too quick to cast stones at those guilty of ingratitude, as distasteful as it is. Husbands and wives, parents and children, co-workers, employers — on and on.
Every human association is liable to be infected with the disease of ingratitude. It may not be fatal, but it certainly won’t lead to a healthier relationship.
I hope we will be more prone, like the single leper, to turn back and give thanks for the things God has given us, rather than simply going our way without a second thought. Let us say with the Psalmist, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1).