Why do we give thanks?

It’s more than just plain good manners

As young children, among the first lessons our parents taught us was the importance of saying ‘thank you’. How many of us can recall that, before something was given to us, our parents ensured that we said ‘thank you’. As we grow older, whenever we give something to someone or do something for them and the ‘thank you’ is slow in coming, we snap, ‘You’re welcome!’ Taking it further, I’ve even heard it said that ungratefulness is worse than witchcraft.

So, you get the picture: gratitude…thankfulness is a big part of life. Just how big is it though? Permit me to share with you the story of the healing of the ten lepers, taken from this Sunday’s Gospel, Luke 17:11-19.

In this story, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, in the region between Samaria and Galilee. En route, He was approached by 10 lepers who called out to Him to have mercy on them. Jesus did have mercy on them, despatched their healing and, in full knowledge of this, instructed them to go and show themselves to the priests (as required by the Law set out in Leviticus 13 and 14). As they walked off they were healed. One of the ten, realising that he had been healed, returned to give thanks. In the Gospel, it is recorded that he praised God and prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him.

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. (Luke 17:15-16)

It is Jesus’ final words to the man that I want to focus on. In verse 19, Jesus says to the man, ‘Get up and get on your way; your faith has made you well.’

Friends, in the 13 words of this sentence, Jesus points out the four things that make gratitude such a big deal:

  1. We are lifted – we get up.
  2. We make progress, and so we get on our way.
  3. We are made well, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
  4. Finally, gratitude helps to increase our faith.

Friends, without a spirit of gratitude we ignore the many gifts that are given to us every day. Put another way, without gratitude, we don’t even take the time to recognise the many gifts we are given each and every day. In this mode, it becomes easy for us to be weighed down by the misfortunes and mishaps we experience. Every day offers us a mixed pot – things that go our way and things that don’t go our way. When we ignore the things that do go our way, though, we are trapped, paying attention only to those things that don’t go our way. The result? Anger, bitterness, apathy, envy, hate and greed. In this mode, it’s difficult for us to ‘get up’.

If we can’t get up, then we can’t get on our way…on our way to purpose, for example. I’ve listed for you the emotional consequences of living in ingratitude (anger, bitterness, etc). Can you imagine, though, the impact on our physical health? There’s hypertension, cancer, headaches, weight gain or loss, hormonal imbalances and other ailments that can plague us. Saddled with emotional baggage and physical health complications, we are unable to ‘get on [our] way’ as Jesus instructed the man.

Let’s now move on to the third point: ‘being made well’. Living in praise and thanksgiving gives us lightness of heart. It allows us to take in stride the challenges and trials that we experience in life. We encounter difficulties in life, that’s for sure, but if we live in gratitude we know there is always a way out. We know that the stumbling block before us will be converted in time into the stepping stone for what’s next for us. There are many ailments – psychological and physical – that we avert if we adopt a spirit of gratitude. And, if we avert these ailments, we are kept well…we are made well.

The fourth and final point is this: gratitude is the hallmark of a person of faith. It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, though, for, if we have faith, we know that there will always be a way out of our difficulties and challenges. In that knowledge, we give thanks even before the way out has presented itself. When the way out presents itself, we give thanks, we praise God as the leper did. When the way out is delivered, and we take note of it, we give thanks and our faith is strengthened. Our faith, that ability to go ‘forward as I trust Him’ (see last week’s piece, ‘Faith‘), is strengthened. It is on this basis that Jesus could say to the man, ‘your faith has made you well’.

Friends, a few weeks ago, I encouraged us not to let anything cripple our praise in my piece entitled, ‘Let Nothing Cripple our Praise’. Now, I encourage you in faith, to give thanks. Thanks is proof of your faith and it is your faith that makes you well. As Paul, Silvanus and Timothy exhorted the church in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 5:18), I exhort you, ‘ give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.’ And well, let me point out that giving thanks ensures your purpose, for what is purpose but to walk in step with the will of God.

So, returning to the title of this week’s piece: why do we give thanks? We give thanks because it is the will of God and if we yield to the will of God, we are well on the way to purpose!

Until next time,

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