George A. Bowers Sr.: Where are the other nine?
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays for many reasons. For one, it is a day on which most individuals and businesses still pause to rest, although that is sadly changing very quickly. This day is also special to me because of the opportunity to spend time with my family without all the required shopping, decorating, and clean up. It is, in many ways, about as close to true Sabbath as we get anymore.
The main reason, however, that I enjoy Thanksgiving is its purpose and history. Every elementary student learns early on about the Pilgrims and the feast they shared together thanking God for their survival in the new world. In addition they also recognized the vital contributions of the Native Americans. In the years since, governors and presidents alike have issued proclamations directing all citizens to thank and praise God for his abundant provision. Following their example, Thanksgiving today continues to be a time to recognize and appreciate God for his generous gifts to us individually and as a nation.
Giving thanks, however, is a very ancient practice and one encouraged and recorded often in the Bible. Our giving God showers us with blessings too numerous to count and his word directs us to thank and praise him for them. There is one particular story that illustrates this most clearly.
Ten men who suffered with the dreaded incurable disease of leprosy showed up before Jesus one day and begged him to heal them. They had heard of his great miracles and risked public scorn and ridicule to come and ask this favor from him. In response, however, Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priest, and the Bible says that “as they went, they were cleansed.” The fact that their request was granted as they obeyed Jesus is very instructive for us and one of many lessons we can learn from this story.
The greatest lesson, however, is what happened next. By the time they got there, they were indeed fully healed and the priest was able to declare all of them ceremonially clean. This meant they were no longer outcasts and were free to return to their homes, families, jobs, and synagogues. We can only imagine how excited and happy these men must have been that day to truly have a new lease on life.
Unfortunately, Luke tells us that of those 10, only one returned to thank Jesus. That’s a pretty low gratitude rate of only 10 percent. Jesus’ question to him is very telling, for he asks, “Where are the other nine?” indicating his expectation of their gratitude as well.
This penetrating question also demonstrates that he expects us to thank him today. How has he blessed you? Has he saved you? Healed you? Housed you? Has he provided any food for your stomach, rest for your body, or comfort for your soul? Has he given you family or friends or both to share life with? If he has done any of these, the very least we should do is to thank him for it.
I wonder why the other nine did not return? Did they mistake this miracle for “coincidence” or “random chance?” Did they get so busy reuniting with their families that they forgot the one who made it possible? Did they want to wait to see if the healing was permanent before they expressed their appreciation? Did they attribute their wholeness to their own doing? Or were they just plain ungrateful? Perhaps all of these played a role, even as they do in our lives when we fail to thank the giver of every good and perfect gift for all that he has given to us.
I pray that as we celebrate another Thanksgiving this coming Thursday that we will each make the time to humble ourselves recognizing that everything we have is a gracious gift from the loving father, and that we will bow before him in real reverent worship and true thanksgiving. May we never be one of the other nine of which Jesus asks this convicting question.
Happy Thanksgiving! George
George Bowers Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of seven books including his latest book of poetry, Holy Verses. He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.