With Thanksgiving around the corner, did you ever wonder why some of us feel more thankful than others? For some of us, Thanksgiving is a daily expression not just an annual holiday. Why is that? What is the key to a grateful heart?
Did you hear about the little girl whose mom gave her an orange? When the girl said nothing, her mom reminded her, “What do you say?” The girl thought for a moment and said, “Peel it?” Aren’t we too often like that? We forget to say thank you to a God who has richly provided for us. Instead of saying “Thank you,” we ask for more. This is not just true of us, it was true in ancient times. Listen to this story that took place during the earthly ministry of Yeshua (Jesus)—It’s found in Luke 17:11-19.
11 While traveling to Jerusalem, He passed between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As He entered a village, 10 men with serious skin diseases met Him. They stood at a distance 13 and raised their voices, saying, “Yeshua, Master, have mercy on us!”
14 When He saw them, He told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And while they were going, they were healed.
15 But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. 16 He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan.
17 Then Yeshua said, “Were not 10 cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And He told him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has made you well.”
These 10 men with serious skin diseases (it wasn’t leprosy as we call it today) all were very similar. Each of them had an incurable skin disease. Every one of them was a social outcast and had to stand at a distance from the rest of society. They all called on Jesus as their Master and begged for His mercy. They each acted in faith; They had not yet been healed when Yeshua told them to go to the priests to show they had been healed. It was only when they started on their way that they were healed. All of them were so similar but one was different, one of them came back. “15 But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. 16 He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him.” What made this man different? Why was this man more grateful than the other nine?
The passage gives the answer. It says in v. 16, “And he was a Samaritan.” And in v. 18 Yeshua noted that none of them returned to say thanks “except this foreigner.” You see the other nine were Jewish people. They had a covenant with God. They had a promise of a coming Messiah. They were part of a people of whom God said, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer 31:3). The one who returned was not just a social outcast because of his skin disease, he was apart from God’s chosen nation. He had no standing, no position, no promises to claim. Moreover, he was a Samaritan. Often we’ve been led to think that this is a good thing because of the good Samaritan. Actually, Samaritans had corrupted the true faith, hindered God’s work when the Jewish people returned to the land, and acted as violent opponents of God’s people Israel. Today, we could paraphrase Luke’s words as “And he was a terrorist, a member of ISIS.”
And this is the key to a grateful heart: When we recognize we deserve nothing but judgment and instead we realize God has given us so much out of His mercy. We’ll have grateful hearts when we realize that we deserve hell, and through Yeshua, God has granted us heaven. We’ll be thankful, when we understand that we deserve nothing but God has granted us everything we need and more. We’ll express our gratitude when we’re overcome by the truth of Lamentations 3:22, that were it not for God’s mercy we’d be consumed; but instead we’ve been given forgiveness and abundant life.
Recently, I was desperately praying for the life of someone I dearly love. He was at the point of dying and it didn’t look good. As I prayed, I realized that I had nothing to claim, no standing, no position, no promises. All I could do was pray for God’s mercy. I could only cry out, “Master, have mercy on him.” And you know what? Yeshua did answer and saved this dear one’s life. And in doing so, he changed me. A day has not gone by since then, that I’ve not fallen on my knees, glorified God, and thanked the Lord Yeshua for His mercy. I didn’t deserve for God to answer me but He did and it changed my life—God has made me forever grateful, not just on Thanksgiving but every day.
Dr. Michael Rydelnik