But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. He fell facedown at his feet, thanking him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?”Luke 17:15-18 (CSB)
In Luke 17, Jesus heals ten lepers. Each of the ten showed a lot of courage as they came to Jesus as a group and cried out for healing as a group. They also demonstrated a lot of faith in that Jesus didn’t heal any of them until they are already on their way to present themselves to the priests in the temple. But only one comes back to say thank you. Only one of them gets the best version of the story.
In my experience, it’s really easy to beat up on the other nine newly healed lepers as nothing more than a bunch of ungrateful degenerates. Jesus heals them and they can’t even be bothered to say thank you?!? But I don’t think they’re bad guys and I don’t even think they are unappreciative. I’m sure they were thrilled with what Jesus had done for them. So thrilled that they were at home kissing their wives or holding babies or hugging parents. Maybe they went off to play basketball with their friends for the first time in a while, to swim without shame, or to just stroll through the market without anybody caring. They’re not ungrateful, they’re just busy feasting, dancing, and laughing. Not bad guys. Just guys who missed something, something that would have only made their party better.
They missed the connection between gratitude and joy. Had they taken a few minutes to come back to Jesus, it would have made their celebration that much sweeter, the story that much better. Gratitude increases joy.
When it comes to our relationship with God, gratitude isn’t about proper manners or staying on His good side for the next time we need a miracle. Gratitude is about recognizing the grace behind the gift. It’s about saying, “You didn’t have to do this, I don’t deserve this, but I’m so thankful that you chose to do this. This only happened because of you.” Maybe that’s why the only one to come back to Jesus is a Samaritan, a foreigner, the one with the least right to expect anything from the Jewish Messiah. He was the one most able to see the grace behind the gift and he was the one who comes away as the real winner in the story.
As a final note, Jesus tells us that gratitude for grace is one of the main ways we glorify God. By saying thank you, this man was not only giving God the credit but also celebrating God’s character – He’s the kind of God who shows mercy to those who have no right to expect it.
I don’t want to live like the nine lepers who don’t come back, appreciative but entitled. I want to taste the joy that comes through grace and gratitude.
If you want to live with more joy, be intentional about living with more gratitude.