The Blessing of Gratitude
All That Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us
You would think that with continuing high rates of unemployment, people would be especially grateful for their jobs this Thanksgiving. You would be dead wrong.
In this precarious economy, many employers have had to trim workers, forcing those who remain to pick up the slack—or a pink slip. Resentment and misery are building among those with jobs, to say nothing of the unemployed.
Gallup says that nearly three-fourths of us with paid positions are phoning it in; 55 percent are "disengaged" (emotionally detached) at work, while another 16 percent are "actively disengaged." The actively disengaged are costing their companies about $350 billion each year. The damage to their self-esteem and emotional well-being—not to mention their souls—is incalculable.
Ingratitude is hardly a modern phenomenon, of course. One day Jesus encountered it while on the way to Jerusalem, traversing what Puritan commentator Matthew Henry called "the frontier-country, the marches that lay between Samaria and Galilee."
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us" (Luke 17:11-13, ESV, used throughout).
Jesus is called aside by the plaintive shouts of men afflicted with a serious skin condition that present-day translators render as leprosy. Bible scholars generally don't believe their disease was the same as modern-day leprosy, but clearly it fell under the unhappy strictures of the Old Testament law intended to keep communicable disease from spreading.
These ten men knew the law. They had to; it was a matter of life and death. But they also knew something of the kindness and power of Jesus. His fame had preceded him, even in this seemingly godforsaken dead end. Surely, they must have thought, if Jesus can cure the blind, heal the lame, and raise the dead, he has the power to help us, too? They were already outcasts and had nothing to lose, so they raised their voices in desperate hope.
When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests" (Luke 17:14a).
The Master simply tells them to go to the priests, who were the first-century referees as to whether a healing had taken place. Any cure, according to the Book of Leviticus, would need the equivalent of a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, so that the formerly suffering could be ritually restored to the community. It didn't matter whether a well-known healer such as Jesus had performed a miracle. The ten men would still have to do the paperwork.
I am reminded of the Old Testament story of Naaman, the Syrian general healed of leprosy by Elisha. When the prophet told Naaman to bathe in the Jordan, initially he balked. The strange task seemed much beneath the dignity of a great military commander. But a wise servant encouraged Naaman to swallow his pride and do it in faith. He did, and healing quickly followed.
Here the ten face a similar test. Will they go to the priests who must certify their healing? How can they, since Jesus has done nothing outwardly to assure them of a cure? "This," Henry notes, "was a trial of their obedience." How would they respond to the Lord's command? Something in the reputation of Jesus, or perhaps in the way he looked them in the eye, encouraged them that they had met not divine indifference, but God's mercy, on the road.