Last Thursday (thanksgiving), I had the opportunity to share a devotional with my church from Luke 17:11-19. It’s a story about 10 people who cried out to Jesus for healing and only one turned back to give thanks. Jesus’ pointed question is “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” And then he speaks a confrontational line, “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
You see the man was a Samaritan. Even without leprosy, this man wasn’t included in the club. Why did he give thanks when the others went on with their day? Probably because he was a foreigner. You see, people who know their foreigners aren’t part of the system. They don’t know how things work. They don’t have networks, or connections. They are displaced and feel misplaced. They need help and they know it. If you’ve ever been a foreigner you know this to be true. Just watch one episode of The Amazing Race on Sunday evenings. As they travel the globe, they all ask for help some time. And when it is given, they are thankful! The nine who walked away may have felt they deserved their healing, after all they were Israelites – – they were God’s people.
This little story makes me think there are two big gratitude killers. These can chew up a grateful spirit and replace it with demandingness and pride.
1) The first is “self-sufficiency.” Self-sufficiency refuses to see our need for help. It says, like the mistaken 3 year old, “I can do it.” When it comes to our relationship with God, we can’t do it. And if we think we are self-sufficient, it is only because we refuse to see that God and others have already helped us along the way. It kills gratitude.
2) The second is “entitlement.” Entitlement says we deserve everything we get. And if we deserve it, why in the world should we give thanks for it? This is the mindset that has a list of things that God and others should just do for us because I am me. This really kills “thanks.”
If you want to continue to increase the spirit of thanksgiving throughout the year don’t act like an insider with God. Instead, recognize that you are a foreigner to God’s grace. You can’t get it on your own and you don’t deserve what you do get. Let’s be thankful that he didn’t leave us on the outside looking in.