It’s the Thanksgiving holiday in Canada today, which I must point out to differentiate between my country and the Americans, who celebrate their Thanksgiving in late November. We Canadians apparently like to spread out our turkey feasts, and so we like to leave a larger gap between the Thanksgiving and Christmas carb-fests than the Americans do.
I’m not saying that one way is right and one way is wrong, but really, when you think about, the Canadian way is right.
Image via Pixabay
The Thanksgiving holiday (in both nations) came about to celebrate harvest time (with Canada celebrating earlier simply because we are further north, where the cool weather comes sooner, and so our harvest season concludes earlier than the Americans).
It is a time to gather with family and friends, to share a meal together, and hopefully, as the name implies, take time to be a little extra thankful for God’s many provisions and blessings.
Now obviously, thankfulness is not meant to be a once-annual practice. Scripture tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” (1Th 5.18).
So whatever we are going through, good or bad – if it is a “circumstance,” then we are called to be thankful in it. We don’t necessarily need to be thankful for it, but we must be thankful in the midst of it. We don’t always understand what God’s will is in every situation, but this verse makes one thing very clear: it is definitely God’s will for us to always be thankful.
The Gospel of Luke tells us the following story:
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Lk 17.11-19)
The story begins with a heartfelt cry from desperate people: Have pity on us! Leprosy had no medical cure, and victims were doomed to a life of isolation and social shunning. These pour souls were hopeless.
But something in them knew that Hope had just walked into the village.
The lepers cry out, and Jesus is willing to respond. He tells the sick to go to see the priests, which was a step that someone with a healed skin disease needed to take in order for the spiritual leader to declare them “clean” from the illness (Lev 13.6; v.13; v.17; etc).
So Jesus, in advance, before any healing has happened, is telling the current lepers to go see the ones whose job it is to declare disease gone.
As the sick head in that direction, in faith, the miracle happens – the healing comes!
But of the ten healed, only one returns, praising God, falling at Jesus’ feet, giving thanks. Who knows where the other nine were at? Perhaps they were overwhelmed, perhaps they were distracted, perhaps they were complacent, but one thing is certain – they were not properly thankful, and did not acknowledge the Lord as they should have.
And – plot twist – the single man who returned to give thanks was a Samaritan, the blood-enemies of the Jewish people. This presumes that the other nine were all Jewish, who knew the LORD intimately, and who should have known better.
“Where are the other nine?” Jesus asks. Only one was thankful.
In the data of this particular miracle, 90% of the recipients of the blessing responded poorly. If the bar set is that we are supposed to be thankful in all circumstances (which would include finding reasons to be thankful even while lepers!), then these ones obviously weren’t responding well at all in light of the most wonderful and miraculous circumstance that God gifted them with! Only 10% of the recipients acted rightly, giving God the praise that He deserves.
And before we get too high and mighty, of course, these Scriptures challenge us to look at ourselves.
It should be a sobering thought for us when Jesus asks, “Where are the thankful?” and we are not found in their midst.
Where are we receiving blessings without giving thanks?
Where are we too busy/preoccupied/selfish/etc. to take the time to honour God?
When we place ourselves in this Bible story and Jesus asks the questions “Where are the thankful?” do we find ourselves with the 90% of the thankless, or do we find ourselves with the 10% of the truly grateful, praising God with a loud voice for what He has done?
The story is unambiguous: find yourself standing with the one thankful and worshipful Samaritan ex-leper.
So put yourself there today, whether Canadian or not, on this Thanksgiving day.
Make your list of blessings you are grateful for. List them all. The list will be long, if you truly think about it. There is much to thank Him for.
And with a loud voice, praise the God who blesses you, sustains you, protects you, provides for you.
When Christ comes asking, “Where are the thankful?”, may we be found in their midst.