Remembering to Give Thanks: A Thanksgiving Devotion

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I’d like to share a few thoughts from one of the most poignant passages in Scripture on the subject of giving thanks- Luke 17:11-19- the account of Jesus healing ten lepers and only one returning to thank the Lord.  Take a moment to read that text and consider these thoughts.

There are many reasons we forget to be thankful.  For some, it’s simply selfishness. For others, our forgetfulness stems from familiarity.  We get so used to the blessings of God that we lose the appreciation we have for Him and what He does for us daily.  I have heard from those who have visited Yellowstone that the busboys clear the tables at Old Faithful Inn without even looking up at the geyser.  Their familiarity with it has caused them to lose sight of the geyser’s grandeur.

Why nine of the lepers failed to give Jesus thanks for the grandeur of the miracle He did for them will never be known.  Perhaps it was for reasons I’ve just stated that they, and we, tend to be forgetful.  But here are some simple points we can learn from this passage.

The one least likely to be thankful was thankful (vv.16-17)

Samaritans and Jews hated each other. The fact that the one least likely to remember to give thanks is really an indictment on those of us who should know better.  And if there is anyone who should never forget to be thankful to God it is those of us who have been saved by His marvelous grace and live with His tangible blessings every day.

We should be thankful because of the tremendous opportunity and access we have to the gospel.  We have multiple Bibles in our possession, freedom to attend church and listen to spiritual broadcasting, and never worry that the authorities are looking over our shoulder.  Much of the world does not enjoy these benefits.  Like the geyser at Yellowstone, we tend to get used to these privileges and forget to be thankful.

Another reason we should never be the ones to forget giving thanks is the physical blessing we enjoy as Americans.  If the world were reduced to a city of 100 inhabitants, it would look like this:

80 would live in substandard housing

50 would be malnourished and 1 at the point of death

39 would lack access to improved sanitation

24 would have no electricity

8 would have access to the internet

5 would control 32% of the world’s wealth and all 5 would be Americans

48 would live on less than $2 US dollars a day

20 would live on less than $1 US dollar a day

Given what you have, do these numbers cause you to be thankful?  Jesus asks, “There were ten. Where are the other nine?”  The math doesn’t add up.  When we have been blessed by Jesus and consider what we truly have in Him and from Him, we have to live our lives in the framework of thanksgiving.  I don’t know who wrote this poem, but its truthfulness applies well:

Today upon a bus, I saw a lovely girl with golden hair; I envied her- she seemed so happy, and how I wished I were so fair; When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle; she had one foot and used a crutch, but as she passed, a smile. Oh God, forgive me when I whine, I have two feet the world is mine.

And when I stopped to buy some sweets, the lad who served me had such charm; he seemed to radiate good cheer, his manner was so kind and warm; I said, “It’s nice to deal with you, such courtesy I seldom find”; he turned and said, “Oh, thank you sir.” And then I saw that he was blind. Oh, God, forgive me when I whine, I have two eyes, the world is mine.

Then, when walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of blue; he stood and watched the others play, it seemed he knew not what to do; I stopped a moment, then I said, “Why don’t you join the others, dear?” He looked ahead without a word, and then I knew he could not hear. Oh God, forgive me when I whine, I have two ears, the world is mine.

With feet to take me where I’d go; with eyes to see the sunsets glow, with ears to hear what I would know. I am blessed indeed. The world is mine; oh, God, forgive me when I whine.

Being thankful is good for us becuase it helps us glorify God (v.18)

When we forget to give thanks it builds within us a self-reliance that causes us to think that what we have is a result of what we have done.  We have nothing that God hasn’t given us.  The Masai tribe in East Africa express thanks in this way- They bow, put their heads on the ground, and say, “My head is in the dirt.”  Thanksgiving is an act of humility.  Another African tribe, to say thanks to someone who did them a favor, sits in front of the person’s hut and says, “I sit on the ground before you.”  God does good things for us and our response should be that we give Him our time and our lives.

Don’t forget the greatest blessing is spiritual in nature (v.19)

Some believe the nine received physical healing, and this one leper who returned received spiritual and physical healing.  By far the greatest gift we can ever receive from Jesus is not material in nature, but salvation and the opportunity to be in relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ.

A pastor once led a worship service on the island of Tobago in a leper colony.  They asked if there were any particular songs they would like to sing.  A woman turned to the pastor.  She had no nose or ears.  She lifted a fingerless hand and asked to sing, “Count Your Many Blessings.”  The one least likely to give thanks, did just that.  If there is anyone who should be giving thanks, it is us.  Let’s never forget that.


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