By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Thinking of God with Larry Sheehy: Living with gratitude: It's better late than never
Larry Sheehy mug web
Larry Sheehy

In Luke's "good news" historical account of Jesus' teaching and deeds, he records the incident of the healing of 10 who were lepers (chapter 17). They had begged him for healing and Jesus told them to go to the priests, the miracle taking effect as they obeyed him. The sad conclusion to the story is shared by Luke.

"Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, 'Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?' And he said to him, 'Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.' " (Luke 17:15-19)

It's startling, isn't it ­- only one of the seven returned! We assume, of course, that the "careless six" went on to show themselves to the priest, as instructed in the Law of Moses. (Leviticus 13:2-14:32; Matthew 8:4) But evidently, they forgot about Jesus' help.

Is it possible they forgot because they were so joyful at their healing? It would seem so, without much doubt. But couldn't they have found him when their euphoria subsided, and poured out their joyful thanks to him? There's not much doubt here, either. Some might suggest the improbability of their finding Jesus at that point. It may have been several days since their healing. Some might suggest the task of finding Jesus would have been nearly impossible. Maybe - but not necessarily. Samaritans were known to travel in Judea and around Jerusalem, demonstrated by Jesus' story of the Samaritan who traveled the road between Jerusalem and Jericho (Luke 10:30). Further, Jesus wasn't a hard man to find most of the time.

After considering everything possible, the strong implication is that the six lepers never took the opportunity to express "praise to God" in thanksgiving for their healing. Surely, it would have been better late than never!

In a tract encouraging the demonstration of appreciation, Joe R. Barnett recounted this true story.

On a stormy night in 1860, a side-wheeler steamboat was rammed by a lumber schooner in Lake Michigan, sinking a mile offshore from the village of Winnetka, Illinois. Two hundred seventy-nine of the 393 passengers drowned. [Incidentally, this was the greatest loss of life in the history of the Great Lakes.] One of the heroes of the tragedy was a strong young student of Northwestern University. Edward Spencer plunged into the lake and swam to the drowning people. He towed one to shore and returned for another. In all, he brought 17 people to safety. The strain brought on delirium, which rendered him an invalid, confined to a wheelchair for life.

On his 80th birthday, he related as his most vivid memory of that day the fact that "Not one of the 17 returned to thank me."

American writer William Arthur Ward (1921-1994) said, "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."

We may feel a deep sense of gratitude for some good done for us. How much better if we take the time to tell of our appreciation by a simple "thank you."


Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter